Never Write Off a Stand Until the Day After You Decide to Do it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the small 40-acre tract I leased in 2011. I signed the dotted line because I’d heard some big deer were seen in that corner of Alamance County, N.C., and it was close to home.
I hadn’t seen anything special, but I was hopeful.
A friend, Chris Faircloth, and I erected a couple of ladder stands before bow season. After it opened, Chris put up a trail camera by his stand, and we soon started collecting photographs of does and small bucks.
When we checked the camera in mid-October, we couldn’t believe what came up on the screen. There was one really cool buck we nicknamed Big Nasty, along with a couple of pictures of a great 8-pointer. Those two bucks, we decided, were the ones we wanted, the ones at the top of our wish lists.
After bow season and the rut’s peak had come and gone without any sightings of Big Nasty, the photographs stopped as well. I was discouraged, but Chris kept insisting our efforts would pay off in antlers.
He called me on Dec. 12 to see if I wanted to join him for an afternoon hunt. I wasn’t really interested in going to that same spot again, but we wound up in our usual places.
Although North Carolina’s firearms season was open, I chose not to take my rifle. There are a lot of houses close to where we were hunting. I would’ve normally grabbed my bow, but because my muzzleloader was still loaded (uncapped) from the previous two-week blackpowder season, I took it.
After sitting in the stand all evening without seeing any deer, that familiar doubt began clouding my thoughts. But before I could beat myself up for returning to that stand yet again, I spotted something near the creek below me.
As soon as I saw its rack, I knew I was going to shoot that deer.
I pulled up my .50-caliber muzzleloader and peered through the scope. Everything was fuzzy because it was dialed up to the max, and the deer was only 60 yards from me.
I lowered the gun, adjusted the optics, and then pulled it back to my shoulder. But when I looked through the scope, I couldn’t find the buck.
I was very near panicking, frantically scanning the area in the waning daylight, when I finally spotted the deer. It needed to take one more step into an opening for me to have a clear shot.
Finally, with 13 minutes of legal shooting light remaining, the big whitetail obliged and I fired. Because of the smoke, I had no idea if I’d hit the animal.
I called Chris afterward and told him to stay in the stand for a few more minutes. He said he’d heard a deer run near him after I shot.
After a short wait (that felt like hours), I got down to see if I could find any sign. I was relieved when I came across a blood trail heading straight for Chris’ stand. The buck had crashed into a brush pile not 30 yards from where my friend was perched.
It was dark by the time Chris and I walked over to the deer and shone our flashlights on it. The sight left us both speechless for a few seconds as we registered its size. Once noted, the sounds that escaped our mouths weren’t whispers.
When we loaded the deer on the truck, we discovered that it had an injury on its left shoulder. After looking closer, we found that it had been shot. There was a small entry wound at the front of the shoulder, and a larger exit wound in back of it.
Chris and I sent photos and text messages to everyone we knew. My phone started ringing non-stop that night, and the calls continued throughout the next day.
Two days later, I received a call from a guy who had seen pictures of the deer and heard where I’d shot it. He asked me if the deer I got was wounded in any way, and I told him of the injury we’d found.
Turns out, the man hunts the adjoining property. He’d shot the same buck nine days before I did, though he never found it. He also said there wasn’t much of a blood trail to follow.
He also claimed to have picked up one of the buck’s sheds from the previous year.
He congratulated me, but was very upset with himself for not taking proper advantage of his opportunity.
Hunter: Steve Shaw
BTR Score: 193 3/8
– Photos Courtesy Steve Shaw
This article was published in the September 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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