By Tim Davis
-- I began 2008 by finding out my father had terminal cancer and probably wouldn’t see hunting season. My fears were realized on July 29 when he lost his battle with cancer. Dad’s death hit me hard, and I had pretty much counted myself out for hunting season. But come fall, my family told me I should hunt and enjoy myself.
I didn’t have the drive of years past, but I put in some time scouting and getting ready. The first day of Pennsylvania’s bow season fell on Oct. 3 that year, and cold temperatures and clear skies greeted me as I headed out to the stand at 5 a.m. After four hours, I had seen six does but nothing with antlers, so I packed up and decided to take a break before the evening hunt.
I returned at 4:30 and settled in. I was surprised when I saw movement just a few minutes later. A nice 7-pointer had snuck in to within 15 yards! I drew my bow and made a clean shot and earned a perfect pass-through. The buck expired within 40 yards of my stand. It was my shortest hunting season ever in Pennsylvania. Feeling good about my luck, I felt like Dad had a hand in that harvest. The buck was respectable for Pennsylvania, and I was surprised that the deer appeared out of nowhere like it did. I never heard a leaf crunch nor a twig snap.
On the way home, I realized I could use the extra time to get ready for my annual trip to the Hoosier State. Every year for the past seven, I had hunted on a friend’s farm in Indiana. My friends and I pack up the pickup and head out for a week-long hunt. It’s always a good time, and my success in Pennsylvania made me think I could enjoy the trip despite my earlier depression.
Getting in late Sunday morning, we opted to sleep. When we all finally rolled out of the sack, we went to hang stands. That evening, everyone was where they needed to be and seeing deer, but no shooters. The next morning was cold and calm, and I could tell the rut was starting.
I made it to my stand in plenty of time, got settled in and began to wait. At 6:45, I heard that sound that every hunter knows — the tending grunt of an amorous buck. I shifted in the stand and got ready, looking down the field edge toward the sound. There was a deer all right, but it was a doe. "Now where is the buck?" I thought.
I didn’t have to wait long. Another deer was approaching, about 50 yards behind the doe. The new deer made its way down the field slowly but surely, head stretched out and grunting every few steps.
I looked back at the doe and thought, "You’re going to be that bruiser’s downfall if you just hold your course." She did, and the buck kept coming.
I couldn’t see the buck’s rack very well with the dim light and intervening foliage, but it finally got close enough that I could see it had three good heavy points on the right top antler. I drew my bow, focusing on an opening through which he was going to pass.
As it stepped into the gap, I gave the universal bow hunter’s bleat. The buck stopped, and it was all over in seconds. As the buck ran away, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a high, wide rack.
Still not sure what I had just arrowed, I sat there thinking, "That was a pretty big rack ... I think it was pretty big. Wasn’t it a big buck?"
After 20 minutes of that, I couldn’t stand it any more. I had heard the deer fall, so there was no real to wait. I got down and walked in the direction the buck had gone. When I saw it on the ground up ahead, my heart sunk; I thought I had shot a big one-sided 4-pointer. But when I finally got up to him and lifted up the rack, the matching side came up out of a depression that had filled with leaves. Disappointment turned to shock as I counted 8 more points. It was a monster 14-pointer with heavy, split brow-tines, stickers, two small drops and a wide spread.
I thought, "This was the king of the farm!" The woods seemed to fall silent as I knelt in respect of the incredible animal I had just harvested. A year that started about as badly as it could was turning around quite well. I know my dad was looking down, and knowing him, he was smiling from ear to ear.
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