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Better Late Than Never

PhotoBy Jon Bryan

-- Having retired to my ranch in Goldthwaite, Texas, the previous May, I was looking forward to, and planning on a "bang-up" deer season. However, as Robert Burns, the Scottish poet said, "Sometimes our plans falter and go astray." I had spotted some real nice bucks before the season, but the first rut had ended without me getting a clear shot.

Getting out of bed early the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, it was raining copiously, and I decided to sleep in, telling myself that I would try hunting around noon. Noon found me climbing into a treestand that was near a well-used deer trail. Of course, as I climbed into the stand, the seat had caught some water from the rain, finding me without even a hankie.

Roughing it, I plopped into the wet seat and very soon my rear had soaked up the water. Thank goodness it was 80 degrees by then. Looking back, that year our temperature didn't get to freezing until just before Christmas.

Not five minutes after I settled down that day, a young doe came bouncing down the trail and right behind her was an equally young 6-point buck. The buck was not an option, but, maybe, the second phase of the rut was beginning. Maybe today would be the day.

For some reason, I had left my rattling antlers at home, but I did have my grunt call looped around my neck. The next thing I knew out trotted a nice buck from some thick brush. A quick glance and I saw that buck's nose was too short. Its neck was swollen and its legs looked short. I also noticed that its antlers were well past its ears.

I raised my Ruger .270 to my shoulder and held it up with my left hand. The buck was still trotting along the trail when I let it have a grrrrunt! The buck stopped and looked directly at me. The .270 boomed and the buck jumped and took off. It was a solid hit.

After a 15-minute wait, I tracked the buck for 50 yards and saw it was down for good. I headed back to the ranch house to get Spike, our Dachshund, so he could get some more practice tracking a downed deer. The dog "nosed" right to the buck and began its ritual of guarding the deer and keeping all onlookers but my wife, Layla, away.

That day is well remembered, but it's funny how quickly we forget the hours and hours of preparation and wet pants that we endure.

Jon Bryan
Goldthwaite, Texas

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