Rack Magazine

Opening Day to Remember

Opening Day to Remember

By Heather Artist

The best stands are sometimes determined by luck of the draw, even if someone else is doing the drawing.

Last deer season, I scheduled a 10-day vacation to coincide with the opening of Missouri’s rifle season on Nov. 16. No longer in college (I graduated the previous May), I was determined not to miss a day of hunting.

My two sisters, Michelle and Angela, and I arrived at our parents’ house that Friday night, excited and ready for the next morning. We had everything laid out and ready to go before we went to bed with the alarm clocks set for 4:45.

Our dad normally accompanies us, but he had to work that Saturday.

At the appointed hour, we girls walked in the dark to the place where we usually split off to go to our stands.

Since there are three of us, we try to take turns when it comes to harvesting a deer, which means whoever’s up has first choice of stands.

Michelle had dibs.

It seemed like we stood there for 10 minutes, trying to decide where to sit. Finally, Michelle decided to go to our “old trusty spot,” and she wanted Angela to go with her. So I went to another place.

I walked very quickly, but quietly.

It was a hot and humid morning for mid-November. The wind was blowing, and it started to rain at daybreak.

Early on, a couple of does passed in front of me. Almost immediately, they looked in my direction and began sniffing the air. The wind was coming from behind me, blowing my scent right to them.

They didn’t hang around after that.

Wonderful, I thought. This is a great way to start opening morning!

Afterward, I considered moving to a different stand where the wind would be in my favor. I texted Angela and my dad to see what they thought. Dad said to do whatever I figured was best. Angela told me to stay put.

The wind died a little — I thought — as the sun climbed. I saw a small buck way off in the distance, but little else was happening.

I was just thinking about taking a short nap since I hadn’t seen very much action, when suddenly something caught my eye. Squinting hard, I realized a buck with a huge rack was standing in a little dip about 80 yards from me.

The next 30 seconds ticked by in a blink.

I instantly reached for my gun, rested it on the table and looked through the scope. I really do not remember taking the safety off, but I must’ve.

The buck was standing broadside, looking the other way. I glanced once more at its antlers to make sure there were at least four points on one side, and then I put the crosshairs behind the curve of the deer’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

The big whitetail spun and ran, and I lost sight of it after about 30 yards.

When it was gone, I could not believe what had just happened. I didn’t even have time to get nervous. I normally experience really bad buck fever and shake uncontrollably, but not that time.

The shakes started while I was trying to call Angela. I assumed my sisters had heard me shoot, since their stand wasn’t too far from mine. It took two calls for them to answer.

Michelle answered with a confused “Hello?”

“I just shot a big one!” I said.

“What? We didn’t hear your shot! Are you sure it was big?”

Opening Day to RememberMy voice was so shaky, all I could get out was “Yes, it was huge! Get up here!”

I hung up with Michelle, and Angela instantly called back to ask if I was joking. It was so windy, they really hadn’t heard the boom.

Angela told me to wait at least five minutes before I went looking for my deer. Meanwhile, they were coming.

I called my dad to tell him, and he said “Alright! You sure it was a nice one?” I told him I thought it was.

I was so excited that I couldn’t wait. I got out of my stand and headed to the spot. When I saw only a couple of drops of blood, my heart sank a little. But I was trying to think positive.

I knew I had a made a good shot and was confident with it, so I started walking in the direction the deer ran. I came across a little more blood, but not a whole lot. And then I looked ahead and saw the tips of antlers.

I thought it might still be alive and about to get up and run, at first. It looked like the buck was staring right at me. But when I couldn’t see its chest moving, I knew it was down for good!

When I got over to it, I started counting points. I could not believe it. I had just shot a 17-point buck! I kept saying

“YES!” over and over.

After that was out of my system, I returned to my stand so my sisters could find me. They almost beat me to it.
They were equally giddy when they saw the buck lying there, and we swapped high-fives.

My mom arrived soon afterward with the four-wheeler. It took all of us to load the deer in the wagon, and we all joined in the cleaning.

Turns out, I’d shot the buck in the heart.

When my dad got home from work, we all met him at the door like little kids on Christmas. We couldn’t wait to see his reaction. He was just as happy as we were!

Hunter: Heather Artist
BTR Score: 196 2/8
Centerfire Rifle
Semi-irregular

– Photos Courtesy Heather Artist

This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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