The Old 7-Point — A Missed Opportunity
On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis
It wasn’t the biggest deer I had ever seen. It wasn’t even close. But the regret of missing my shot opportunity haunted me and grew more painful as time went on. When the 2018 deer season came to an end, I still had two buck tags unused. It was the first season in a long while that I had not even taken a shot at a buck… not that I didn’t have the opportunity. They say that sometimes the best shot is the one you didn’t take, for ethical reasons. However, in this case, my lack of trigger-pull was because of hesitation. In my mind, I blew it.
That November morning in 2018 was cool and clear. I was sitting in a neglected cow pasture with three long shooting lanes cut through the thick underbrush. After viewing a few does and one small buck right after daylight, I saw nothing move until the sun’s rays filtered to the ground. Then, at the far end of my middle shooting lane, which angled off slightly to my right, I saw the big 7-point, the orange glow of early morning sunlight illuminating his yellow rack. I knew him well through trail-camera pictures. Nose to the ground, he ambled steadily toward me, closing the nearly 300-yard gap between us. I propped my rifle on the side of the stand, rested my thumb on the safety and attempted to patiently wait. Once he got to about 150 yards, he turned broadside for the first time, and I took the safety off. Crosshairs behind his shoulders, I took a deep breath and…
I waited. To this day, I’m not sure why I waited, but I did. The buck stepped out of the shooting lane into the head-high briar thicket and disappeared. His footsteps were still easily heard.
No big deal, I thought. He will surely walk across my next shooting lane. But the big 7-point had other plans. Just before crossing my lane, he turned and walked directly away, not even allowing me another glimpse. I frantically reached for my grunt tube and let out a few desperate grunts. The buck paused once before resuming his slow retreat away from my stand. I never saw him again that season.
A sinking feeling settled over me while I replayed the scene in my mind. Why didn’t I shoot? My aim was steady. The buck was within range. He was statue-still, AND he was broadside. What more did I need?
I never could answer that question, and I had a long time to painfully ponder the situation while I awaited the next deer season.
The first two weekends of the 2019 rifle season were unsuccessful in my quest for the old 7-point, but the trail camera revealed the buck’s presence still in the same area as the year before. On a cloudy, cool morning on Nov. 2, 2019, I went out to my honey-hole stand where I had seen the buck the season prior. The morning began slowly with only a small 4-point crossing one of my mowed shooting lanes. About an hour after daylight, another deer stepped out into my left-most lane. His nose was tilted toward the sky as he scent-checked the spot. I could see the antler beams angling away from the deer’s head. His neck looked huge. His back had a downward curve. Then, he looked straight my way.
I knew the buck… my old 7-point! But oh how it hurt to just watch. I was caught off guard with my rifle in my lap, and I saw very little hope in being able to raise it without spooking the deer. My mind quickly searched for an answer to how I could get an ethical shot off.
The answer came to my right, in the form of a buck grunt. Immediately, my prize 7-point turned to look for the imposter; his hair bristled as his ears pinned back. I know this because I never took my eyes off of him. I never even looked to my right to see what buck had come onto the scene. For all I knew, a Boone and Crockett was standing on the edge of the briar-lined pasture out of my field of view. I had learned my lesson the season before though. If a good shot presented itself, I would not hesitate. I was locked in on my 7-point.
Slowly, the 7-point turned around to face the challenger. That was my opportunity. I quickly lifted my rifle, found his shoulder in my scope, and…
I pulled the trigger! No hesitation this time.
The buck sprang one leap forward and hit the ground. Watching through my scope, I made sure that he was down for good. After seeing the buck go still, I leaned back with a big sigh. I glanced to my right. My heart skipped a beat at what I saw. Tall tines reached skyward out of the thick underbrush. I pivoted around, took aim and waited for the buck to clear the brush.
As the alert 8-point buck stepped out broadside, I clicked the safety off. I still had one more buck tag. The crosshairs settled behind his shoulder. I slowed my breathing. My opportunity was there. And…
This time, I had a reason for my hesitation. I had come here to chase the old 7-point. He was my target buck, the one I had a history with. I wanted to enjoy the hunt in a special, undistracted way. I smiled and lowered the rifle. My second buck tag remained unfilled.
And that is a shot I don’t regret not taking!
Andrew graduated from UGA in 2006 with his undergraduate degree in Animal Health and from UGA’s veterinary school in 2010. His passion for fishing and the outdoors began when he was a young boy spending time with his grandfather at Lake Oconee. Now he enjoys passing on what he has learned to his two young boys at their home on the Alapaha River. Turkey hunting and south Georgia river fishing are among his favorite pastimes, but his main interests involve mentoring kids in the outdoors while spreading the Word of Jesus. Andrew has discovered the joy and power in writing and hopes to benefit others through his words.