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First Muzzleloader Hunt

HedrickBy Fred G. Hedrick Jr.

-- It was a cool Delaware morning; the opening day of muzzleloader season in October 2005. I started deer hunting late in life. At the age of 50, I was greatly anticipating another chance to get into the woods to experience what everyone was talking about.
My son, Brian, and I arrived at some public hunting land near Harrington, Del., around 5:30 a.m., geared up and started walking. My brother-in-law, Buddy, had been there before and had a spot picked out for me in a tree near a trail used by deer. Then, Buddy led Brian to a hunting spot about 100 yards away from where I was set up.

The sun started rising almost directly in my face. What a welcome sight and feeling. It was warm on my skin, and in its streaming light I noticed I was emitting some steam from my gloved hands and from the neck opening of my clothing. I was hoping this was not carrying too much scent with it. I was a bit tired from not sleeping well the night before.

The warm sun was making me feel drowsy but my ears were alert. I heard the sound of rustling leaves which turned on the adrenaline pumps and put me on full alert. I slowly and carefully turned to my left where the noise was coming from to see a grey squirrel out foraging for its breakfast. I laughed at myself and watched with some amusement at one of God's creatures going about its day, unaware that it had an audience.
The squirrel crossed in front of me and continued off to my right where it disappeared from my view. Not five minutes later, I heard another rustling sound off to my right and slightly over my shoulder. I went into alert mode again. Out stepped a beautiful 5-point buck!
The buck had not seen nor winded me but just continued on with its nose to the ground. As the buck passed me at about 10 yards, I shouldered my inline to get ready to take my shot. To my complete horror, I could not see through my scope! The steam coming from my hands had completely fogged the lens. Trying not to panic, I took a gloved finger and wiped the moisture from the lens while keeping an eye on the buck. The buck continued past me and out onto the trail.

Again, trying not to panic, I grabbed my multi-tone call, which I had the foresight to hang around my neck, and gave a soft doe bleat. The buck raised its head and excitedly pranced around in a circle looking for where the bleat had come from, stopping broadside in a shooting lane that I had chosen from my vantage point. I put the scope just behind its right shoulder. I found the buck in my crosshairs, clicked off the safety, put pressure on the trigger and boom! The inline rocked the calm morning as the round slammed into the ribs of the unsuspecting buck at about 15 yards away.

I finished my descent from the tree and went to the spot where the bullet connected with the deer. Being a novice, I was expecting to find blood and was surprised when I found none at all. I followed the direction that the buck had taken and turned into the woods where I believed he had gone.

I walked slowly and looked all around for signs of blood. I had gone about 10 yards into the woods and spotted a patch of blood on a small knoll the buck had obviously stumbled over on its way in. At about 20 yards in, I stopped again to look around for any sign, looking up and about 180 degrees from my right to my left. Suddenly, I saw a white rump glaring at me from only 25 yards off to my left. There was my first deer and my first buck! 

Fred G. Hedrick Jr.
Newark, Delaware

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