Hunter: Justin Pinkerton
Points: 16 (7L, 9R)
The story of this hunt is a long one that I will not soon forget. I recently had a small operation on the sole of my right foot to remove a mole that the dermatologist did not like the looks of. I spent the next few days stuck on a couch while my amazing wife Heidi waited on me hand and foot. I am here to tell you that it is one of the hardest things to do when you know the time is right in the deer woods. After being a good boy for a few days and a promise to take it easy, I got her to agree to give me early release to slip off to our family property. So on Thursday (Nov. 4) I snuck off, pulled some camera cards and headed to a new box blind to try and get some intel on how the deer were approaching that particular set up. While waiting for the action to heat up, I decided to check the cards and see what they had to show. To my complete surprise, I had daylight pictures of what is most certainly the largest deer on the property on multiple consecutive days. It was then that I knew why the call of the deer woods was pulling me so strongly! I quickly checked my hunting app and checked the wind and weather conditions for the next few days and was met with more good news. I had all the intel needed and the conditions proved to be just right. So Friday morning I was in the stand at 5:45 and I sat for him. By 10 I had seen a handful of does but no bucks. About 45 minutes later I stood up to start gathering my gear and put it quietly away into my bookbag. As I was almost complete with my task, I noticed three does that were slipping around behind the stand around 40 yards away to the left. They were very wary and constantly looking back behind them. So I grabbed my gun and readied for an opportunity that may present itself. The does did not hang around long and slipped across a trail and down into a hardwood hollow. As they were making their escape, I noticed a heavy-bodied deer moving in the same direction as the three does but probably another 60-70 yards further down the trail. The heavy-bodied deer froze behind some trees and brush to try and locate where the group of does had gone off to. Then for just a moment he cleared the brush and revealed himself to be the big guy we were all after. The sighting didn't last long as he casually jogged away to cut off the does that were headed downhill. My heart raced and then sank almost immediately. About 20-25 minutes later, I heard the loud report of a high powered rifle in the same direction that he was last seen running in and my heart sank even further. Invigorated by the sighting, I chose to stay another hour or so and saw several other immature bucks cruising. At last I climbed down around noon and headed back to the cottage to regroup and get some food. That evening I chose to give that location a rest and focus on harvesting a doe for a great friend of the family. The evening sit in another location proved to be fruitful, and I was happy to help out those who share our desire for wild game meat. Before going to bed I was still conflicted on whether or not I should bother returning to the location where I had seen him last, or just assume that it was him that had been shot the day before shortly after my sighting. I decided to let the elements decide for me. So I checked the wind direction on Saturday morning when I woke up and the conditions were holding consistent with the day before. "I am going back in," I said to myself. Even if he had been harvested by some other lucky hunter, we still have several handsome bucks running around the property that I would love to grace my freezer and my wall. With Saturday morning being a few degrees colder, I expected to see more deer on their feet in the early hours than the previous day, but that proved to be the opposite. The only deer I was lucky enough to watch right after day break was a promising 2-year-old 8-point. It would be more than two hours before I saw the next deer. She was one of the largest does I have ever seen and she was all alone. She crossed a trail on my right-hand side from left to right and disappeared into the timber. Standing and holding my rifle at the ready at this point, I nearly sat back down when two smaller does busted out of the timber from the same side the big girl just went into. Immediately, my heart raced and flooded my body with adrenaline. I just knew he was behind them. It's got to be him or a coyote, I thought. Ten minutes had passed with no other deer in sight. I had turned a full 180 degrees in the stand to view the area they had run out of. Another 10 minutes or so passed and still nothing. I decided to pull out my Primos long can and give out a few bleats. A series of two, then wait five minutes, then another series of two, and wait. It was on the fifth bleat that I heard leaves crunching behind me from the original direction I was facing. Trying not to turn my head all at once, I strained hard with the corner of my eyes and caught a deer body slowly walking up out of a hardwood hollow. The deer stepped behind a tree and allowed me to turn further to get a better look. I knew it was a good buck instantly, but didn't know which buck he was. Having seen enough, I knew I would be happy to fill my tag with this animal regardless of which buck it turned out to be. Not wanting to risk being seen I had to close my eyes, catch my breath and review all that I would have to overcome to take advantage of this encounter. He had caught me off guard! I was looking in the opposite direction, my gun was pointing the wrong way and my safety harness was draped over the wrong side of my shoulder/head to shoot in his direction. Lucky for me I had thought to hang a few Tinks bombs out, and this pulled his attention away from the bleat sounds he was trying to home in on. His path to approach the scent bomb took him through a couple of trees one of which still had just enough foliage to conceal the movements I still needed to make. His head cleared the brush as he checked the tantalizing scent, and I could clearly see in my scope now that it was indeed the target buck we were all after. I quickly realized that I needed to zoom out on my scope as I had been prepared to shoot much further where he had shown himself the previous morning. I quickly made the adjustment from 9x to 4x on the scope. Just then the deer backed up into the brush that separated us. He knew something wasn't right but didn't know what exactly. He started to turn and go back the way he had come, but made a different choice and headed in another direction away from me entirely. I was frantic, not wanting to let him get away I picked a window in the trees and when he stepped into it I stopped him with a grunt noise out of my mouth. He was searching for the source of the sound as I steadied my rifle and mentally prepared to take the shot. With a loud crack the gun kicked and the buck dropped! I was ecstatic, and the buck lay still for about 30-45 seconds until he tried to get back up. I have been warned about and personally witnessed a big mature deer and their will to live being unlike any other, so I worked the bolt and chambered another round, squared up on the other shoulder and squeezed another shot off. This time he did not move another muscle and I knew that it was over. I made the gun safe and looked up to the sky. I thanked God, my late Pa and a few other people who I knew were looking out for me that day and did all I could to not fall out of the stand. After calling my wife and boys and sharing the good news, I jumped on a group text with my uncle David and cousin John and shared the news. It had after all been a group effort of running cameras and sharing info that lead to this point. After some atta boys and digital high fives, John grabbed his son and his buggy and headed to help load the bruiser. I can't thank them enough for all the wonderful memories made in the woods together. Needless to say my wife and boys were overjoyed for me but super bummed that they had chosen to sit this weekend out. Having loved ones to share the outdoors with is truly the trophy. After getting the buck gutted and loaded up, I headed home to share it with my family. I thanked them for allowing me the opportunity to chase my dreams in the woods and share the many ups and downs that come along with deer hunting. After leaving the processor with the cape, I decided to green score the buck, and boy was I surprised. He grossed 160 5/8 and netted 153 7/8. I credit this hunt to staying out of the woods or core area until the all of the conditions are right. I let the buck's change in his behavior or pattern dictate the best time to pursue him, and only then was I willing to get aggressive with it. It may be a long time before I encounter another deer like this one in the woods of Georgia and it may well never happen again, but until it does Ill be happy as a clam spending it with the loved ones that got me here in the first place.