To Get This Yuchi WMA Buck, Last Day Was The Best Day
Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.
By John Zebro
It was Oct. 21, 2017. We’d been hunting for the last three days thanks to the Yuchi WMA check-in hunt. I managed to drag three guys from base to go hunting with me on this expedition. The four of us had seen plenty of does, but for a WMA that is known to produce quality trophy bucks, it was slim pickings.
It was a brisk cool morning, “Oh yeah! Today’s the day!” I thought. That’s what I usually say every time I go into the woods.
Out of three guys, my buddy Lawrence was the only one who volunteered to come with me and hunt on the last morning. This was the last hunt until our next trip in November.
I fired up my truck, and it read 39 degrees as Lawrence and I set out from the campsite to go hunting.
As the sun started to creep upward, the landscape looked out of place. No more than 10 yards in front of me was a small pile of fur. Something had died in the middle of the night. It wasn’t there when I left the spot at sundown yesterday. I figure I would go check it out later when Lawrence and I decided to throw in the towel.
Around 9, I heard what I thought was a monster whitetail trampling through the woods. I shouldered my rifle, a seasoned Remington 7400 chambered in the mighty .30-06 with a serial number that conveniently corresponded to the year I was born (1990). The rifle had taken more deer than most people will in a lifetime. Being a native from Long Island, this was a common rifle you’d find in most Adirondack and Catskill hunting camps.
My face started to get hot. The world had gone quiet, and tunnel vision was an understatement. I was suffering from a mild case of buck fever when I finally was able to identify the deer making the sound… It turned out to be the biggest fox squirrel I’ve ever seen.
Just after 10:30, Lawrence texted me that it was time to go. I agreed and slung my rifle over my shoulder and accepted defeat. I slowly started to stand up with a curiosity burning inside of me to figure out what creature had died during the night and was dead right in front of my chair that had ruined my hunt.
It was a coyote. Go figure. As I examined it up close, it wasn’t shot by another hunter. Old age killed the coyote, I guess.
That’s when I heard a stomp, snort, wheeze and the sound of a bush being violently snapped in half all at the same time. I dropped to one knee, my rifle was somehow shouldered and the crosshairs were on the chest of what I thought was a pending state-record buck. The problem was I couldn’t get a clear shot due to the large amount of brush in the way. What felt like 10 minutes was probably 10 seconds. I needed to make a decision. The buck was facing me head on. I could see a good amount of antler but didn’t have time to count the points.
The buck stomped and took another step. At that moment, there was only 20 yards between us. I said to myself, “OK John, being gored is not an option. Shoot low on his chest right above his legs.” I figured right then was my best chance. It was now or never.
As I pulled the trigger, the recoil from “old reliable” hit me like the first time I shot my grandfather’s rifle. The buck fell, or so I thought, and I stupidly gave chase.
On the other side of the thickets, he lay kicking. The bullet grazed his spinal cord 3 inches down from his left ear. By the grace of God, I hit him. I was surprised that such a small amount of brush disturbed the trajectory of 180 grains so significantly that I barely connected. One more round was fired, and I thanked God for the opportunity.
That was it. There were no sweaty hands, my face wasn’t burning up, and the world hadn’t turned silent. Nope! Nothing. The whole encounter lasted maybe 10 seconds. Several minutes had passed when Lawrence approached, “So much for packing up. Goodness!” The story was relayed, and Lawrence was in disbelief. The drag was easy. These Jet Sleds really help the haul.
We arrived back at camp like the Mets going to Disney after the World Series. Our two friends Gabe and Christian had announced they had packed up camp and then followed with, “Did you get anything?”
“See what happens when you sleep in?’’ I said, revealing a mature 7-point buck as the tailgate to my pickup opened.
Fast forward to our November hunting trip. We were on the road trying to find our way to Cedar Creek WMA, a short, 90-minute drive from Fort Gordon.
It had been a couple of weeks since I shot the buck, and none of us had gotten any range time in. I knew Cedar Creek had a range. Gabe and Lawrence had been itching to get back out to try and top my buck. The trash talking at work was nonstop. However, we all agreed to stop by the range and make sure our rifles were still on.
Finally, we arrived at Cedar Creek, another WMA known for producing quality trophy bucks. The range was beautiful, clean and well maintained.
I set up a target at 100 yards, you know the standard. Boom, I let three shots go. However there was nothing on paper. I asked Lawrence to spot me, and I let three more shots go. That’s when Lawrence told me, “Yeah, you’re about 18 inches too high and to the right…”
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