Hunter’s Journal – March 2021

Reader Contributed | March 2, 2021

By Otto Gruhn Sr.

I’ve had some great times in the woods chasing game and have made countless good memories with friends and family. I truly have been blessed.  However, this past trip to our property in Clay County was one that will be played over and over again in my mind and heart and in my daughter’s, as well.

Dec. 7, 2020 was a cool, cloudy day at 43 degrees and spitting rain and a light northwest breeze, and the rut was in full swing.

Hunter: Kayla Gruhn, Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Location: Clay Co., Date: Dec. 7, 2020

The land we own and hunt is about 235 acres with four food plots and a few more stands. Hunting that day was my daughter Kayla, her boyfriend Ben and a friend of mine David. They were spread out over the property in established stands. I decided to just sit on the powerline that bisects a portion of the property. There are no stands on the powerline, so I just sat in a folding chair on a ridge with a great view. I had my long-range rifle with me and was planning on stretching its legs if the opportunity arose.

Shortly after first light I saw a doe being tended by three small bucks. She was leading them around in circles like puppies on a string. I watched, hoping a more mature buck would join the parade. This went goes on for 30 minutes or so, with them coming and going into and out of the woods. It made for an enjoyable sit.

Then, here comes a Georgia Power truck, a loud diesel loaded with clanging tools. It pulled right into the powerline and parked. Three gentlemen got out and pointed and walked around. Finally one of them spotted me with my blaze orange hat and vest. They gestured something and loaded up to leave. I was thinking no harm was done, so the hunt continued.

Well, not quite. It seemed the powerline boys didn’t get done what they needed to do the first trip, so they showed up and drove back and forth four more times. Each time I stood up, turned to them and gave them my best “What The Heck” look. It didn’t help. They had work to do and my hunting spot was where it needed to happen.

So, having been thoroughly aggravated, I packed up my chair and shooting stick and headed back to the truck that was parked just up the hill 200 yards away. I had the intent to swap rifles and go sit on a creek bank.

About halfway back to the truck I heard grunting and running and saw two small bucks hard after a hot doe. They ran in circles several times and then headed for an area we call Logan’s.

After swapping rifles, I texted Kayla and suggested she move from her current location to Logan’s Stand, which was about a quarter-mile walk. She did, and I headed back down the hill.

Going back down, I glassed the powerline again and noticed that the doe with the three bucks were back out in view, only this time one of the bucks had been upgraded—seriously upgraded. A high, wide and heavy 8-point has joined the puppy parade. I gave him a good look and watched him for about 10 minutes and decided not to shoot in the hopes the doe would lead him in front of Kayla. They moved in and out of view several times as I just sat there and watched as they disappeared into the trees. Then it occurred to me that Kayla needed to get to me ASAP in case he came out again.

I text Kayla, “Get here.”

She responded, “On my way.”

I hoofed it back up to the truck to meet her and briefed her on the situation. It went something like this: “I’ve been seeing this super nice buck, he’s a big 8, he’s tending a doe, he’s 360 yards away, you have to use my rifle, I’ll range him for you, here carry this stick, I’ll carry the chair, walk directly behind me, let’s go!”

She said, “Let’s do it,” and off we went.

When we got there, I set up the chair and she plopped down in it. I handed her my 12-lb. rifle, and she immediately started looking through the scope while I started glassing with binoculars. Kayla saw a small 6 crossing the creek, but neither of us saw any trace of the doe or other bucks.

After a few minutes, the doe showed, then the buck. It was him, but he was facing dead away at 365 yards. I told Kayla to hold on his shoulder and if he gave a broadside shot to take it. The rifle has CDS dials which are marked with yardages and makes it easy and simple. The buck turned left giving a half a second opportunity, and then just like that was back into the woods out of sight. The whole time Kayla was trying to hold steady and be ready but couldn’t quite get it done. She was dejected.

“He’s gone,” she whispered.

I told her that he would be back out if that doe came out. I suggested that we sneak closer while they were in the woods. We moved about 50 yards closer and set back up. Kayla had the rifle shouldered and ready. She got busy glassing with the scope while I was looking with my binoculars, but there was no sign of them.

We talked a little. I gave some pointers while she was trying to remain positive. Then the doe showed again. We saw the buck, but he was still back in the trees. The two other bucks showed, as well. Then the big 8 came out full broadside just as we hoped

“Ok, take him,” I said


“I couldn’t hold steady,” she said.

She knew not to sling lead and hope for the best, so after several minutes, she didn’t shoot, and they all went away again.

By then Kayla was frazzled, having seen that big buck twice and not being able to close the deal was really working on her.

Then after about five minutes of agony, the doe came back out, this time 100 yards closer. We could see the big boy’s antlers through the brush, and the other two bucks were there, as well. The excitement was tremendous. She was going to get a 265-yard shot. All he had to do was walk forward 3 yards… 3 yards!

Five minutes later, still 3 yards.

My heart was making my ears make funny squishing sounds, and my breathing was short and shallow. It was incredibly stressful but tremendously cool. This was real. This was me and my daughter sitting on the side of a hill hoping for the opportunity and then trying our best to rise to the occasion. It simply didn’t get any better than this.

Finally after an eternity, he stepped forward and gave a good quartering-away shot. I ranged him at 265 and the scope dial was adjusted accordingly

“Take him,” I said.

Again, nothing. Actually I heard mumbling

“What?” I ask.

“I’m talking to myself,” she said.

She was struggling to hold. The half-mile walk, the excitement of seeing the buck, the stress of the shot and the pressure of not disappointing Dad or herself were hitting her hard, but she didn’t give in.

She dropped the shooting sticks, got out of the chair and kneeled down behind the chair and used the chair as a gun rest.

I heard her mumble “much better.”

The buck was frozen in the rut trance, still offering a quartering-away target, and the doe was calmly feeding. The time had come, and Kayla knew it.

She breathed deeply. I heard several forced exhales, some more mumbling, and then she sent the 143-grain 6.5 Creedmoor on its way. I saw the buck jump and do a back flip. Great shot, clean instant kill.

We waited for a while just in case. We both were talking like little kids recalling an adventure they just lived.

“Did you see that?”

“Did you hear that?”

“I can’t believe it.”

“Oh my gosh!”

It was pure joy, and it’s why God created me.

I am truly blessed and so very thankful. God is good.

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