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Coming Full Circle

PhotoBy Susan McGee

-- I was watching my husband shoot his bow one day and decided I wanted to give it a try. Little did I know what I was getting into.

Before I knew it, I was the proud owner of a bow, and we were headed out the door to hunt deer. Eighteen years have passed, and I love this sport as much now, if not more, than when I first started out.

While I've had many great memories in the woods, none quite compare to my brush with a Virginia deer that took place Dec. 27, 2006, during muzzleloader season. My window of opportunity was small because the weather was expected to take a turn for the worse around noon. So I only had a few good hours to hunt. It was a perfect morning to hunt before the front was expected to move through. My husband decided not to go with me because he had tagged out on bucks for the season.

I was at my spot well before daybreak. As the morning began, I tried a few grunts with my mouth. I taught myself how to grunt by listening to the deer. This saves me from carrying calls.

On this particular day, I had seen a few spikes, two decent bucks and plenty of does. There is one thing I have learned during my years of hunting, and that is where you see does, sooner or later there has to be a good buck in the area. Around 7:45 a.m., the sound of a squirrel rustling through the leaves broke the silence. By 8 a.m., there was a disturbance in the leaves again. I turned and expected to see the squirrel, but I was in for a big surprise. It was a huge buck walking out of a thicket!

I moved slowly to put my gun up because the buck was just 20 yards away. It was not even aware that I was there. I was ready for the buck to step out and give me a clean shot. I made certain to not focus on the buck's antlers. I was looking for its vitals. The buck stood behind some trees, which seemed like an eternity. I gave a faint grunt, the buck stepped into my sights. I pulled the trigger to hear nothing but a click.

I just knew the buck was going to take off any moment, but it didn't budge. I cocked the trigger again, gave another soft grunt and shot. As the smoke billowed out of the muzzleloader, I could not see which way the deer headed. But I could hear branches break as the buck stumbled to stay on its feet.

With my inability to hear very well, I had to rely on my eyesight to find sign. But there was no trail left by the buck. I was so upset with myself; I knew I couldn't have missed that deer. But where was it? I decided to let some time pass before I looked for the buck.

I went back to the area where I took the shot and circled around again, to no avail. Then I thought maybe the buck ran back the same way it came in. I followed the turned up leaves that took me around the thicket and to a logging road. Across the road on a slight incline, I saw antlers sticking up. Then the adrenaline kicked in. I found my 9-point buck.

The buck was too heavy to drag, so I called my husband on the two-way radio for help. It just so happened he was only 150 yards away turkey hunting. He was there in about 15 minutes to see my trophy and drag it out of the woods. I was lucky in more ways than one that day.

Susan McGee
Gate City, Virginia

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