By J.R. Reisinger
'Bubba' eluded J.R. Reisinger several times until that memorable day when son Levi spotted him first.
-- I was grumbling on opening morning of Maryland's 2005 general gun season because I had to work. But that afternoon I decided to head out to an area I had been hunting during bow season. I was after a particular buck I'd seen the previous shotgun season. He had a knack for staying either just out of range or behind enough cover so I couldn't get a clean shot. I wouldn't dream of taking a risky shot at this incredible buck, which I affectionately nicknamed "Bubba."
I'd also seen Bubba once during pre-season scouting and twice during bow season. I just couldn't get him to cooperate. I was constantly talking about this buck to my friends, family and especially my 10-year-old son, Levi. We'd spent countless hours in the woods scouting since he was 7. Already very educated on deer sign and rutting activities, it was nearly unbearable for him to wait another year to actually hunt with me.
Since I was the only hunter on this 200-acre property, I was fairly certain Bubba hadn't been taken in the bow season. This had me very excited on opening day, and the buck fever was so bad I almost got sick to my stomach. As I gathered my things and started packing the truck for the evening hunt, I noticed Levi quietly sitting on the steps, moping and picking at his fingers like he does when he's nervous about something.
I sat down beside him and asked what was wrong. Levi replied that he just couldn't stand waiting another day to go to the woods with me. Well, it just broke my heart to see him that sad, and I knew I couldn't drive off without him. I told him to go get his camo. Levi was so excited he could barely contain himself.
We got to the property around 2:30. We found a good spot about 100 yards up a hill, which overlooked a creek bottom where I had seen plenty of sign and a scrape line. I knew Bubba had been traveling there. The wind was coming up the hill in our face, so I felt we had the best chance given the circumstances.
By 3:00, we were situated with Levi sitting on the ground between my knees. I was concerned about his comfort and ability to sit still in this position. To my amazement, he hadn't so much as moved a muscle or uttered a word an hour later. Finally, I bent down and asked if he was okay, and Levi said he was a little cold. I replied, "Okay, very quietly let's stand up for a few minutes and get the blood flowing again."
When he tried to stand up, Levi slipped and rustled in the leaves a bit. While he apologized, I decided to hit my grunt call a couple of times just for a calming effect in case there were deer nearby. Not two minutes after I hit the grunt call, Levi said, "Dad, I see a deer!"
I asked where, and he motioned slowly with his head. At first I couldn't find anything, and I thought perhaps he was seeing things. I continued to look in the direction he had indicated, and finally I saw "him." About 175 yards out, on the other side of the creek and in very heavy cover, stood Bubba in all his glory.
I told Levi that he had just spotted Bubba, but that he was too far away and in too much cover for a shot. The magnificent buck started walking to our left and quickly disappeared into a thicket. I hit my grunt call twice more, and loudly, and Bubba immediately turned around and started moving quickly back the way he had come. Then he started to flank us to our right.
The buck walked into an opening between two downed trees and stopped about 130 yards distant. I was ready and squeezed the trigger. The buck reeled and made about a 40-yard half-circle before collapsing in a pile of brush where we could not see him.
Levi asked, "What happened, Dad?"
Trying to contain myself, I responded, "We just got Bubba, and you spotted him first!" You can only imagine how excited Levi was. He wanted to go to the buck right away, but I explained that we needed to sit still and make sure he did not get back up. After about 15 minutes, I decided that my shot was true and it was probably safe to slowly make our way down the hill and across the creek.
Levi indicated that he did not want to walk straight to the buck, but instead he wanted to follow the buck's trail for the experience. I let him take the point and follow the trail right to the incredible whitetail. When Levi finally reached the buck, he knelt down, patted Bubba on the neck and said, "Dad, this is the best day of my life."
The buck turned out to be 20 inches wide with very tall P2s and P3s. He weighed in at the check station at 195 pounds field-dressed!
This, too, was the best day of my life - aside from the day Levi was born. Sharing this experience was truly wonderful. We bonded that day in a way a lot of people will never understand, and, together, we created a tale that will be uttered around hunting campfires for years to come.
In the spring, we will attend the hunter's safety course, and who knows, maybe next year Levi will get his chance for another hunt of a lifetime!
J.R. and Levi Reisinger
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