By Oliver Earl Huffman
-- The Indiana gun season lasts 16 days, but work limits me to Sundays, which means my season is just three days.
I’m pretty new to hunting whitetails, having just taken it up three years ago, so when the local sporting goods store put treestands on sale in the summer of 2008, I bought one. It would be my first hunt from a treestand, and I couldn’t wait for deer season.
In early October, I picked out a location for my stand near the junction of three trees near some deer trails about 35 yards from a picked soybean field. I put my back to the field, facing the trails, cleared some shooting lanes and left.
On Nov. 15, I headed out to hunt. My buddy couldn’t make it, and the weather was lousy — 22 degrees with 30 mph wind gusts — but with only three days to hunt, I couldn’t be picky.
I left my truck and began the 200-yard walk to my stand through a light fog. Visibility was limited to about 20 yards until the fog finally burned off some time around 10 a.m. The only glimpse I got of a deer that day was the tail of one I spooked when I got down at noon to put out some fresh scent.
A week later on the 23rd, I was alone again but in my stand by 6:20, watching the sky begin to lighten up. While it was still cold at 20 degrees, at least the wind was gone. There were squirrels everywhere getting ready for winter. I counted five on the ground and another six in the trees. I couldn’t believe how much noise they made.
At about 7:30, a doe came out of the bean field directly behind my stand and walked to within 10 yards on my right. She stopped and looked up at me, and I didn’t think she was ever going to look away. She wasn’t alarmed, though, and put her head back down and calmly walked away, occasionally stopping to browse. I watched her the whole time, thinking about how I would take various shots if she had been a buck. Eventually she walked out of sight.
At about 8:45, I saw something move on the logging road to my right. About 100 yards through the timber I saw what I had come there for — a buck!
I watched as it slowly walked down the road toward my stand. It wasn’t in any kind of a hurry, stopping to smell and rub his face on low-hanging branches. Instead of continuing on toward, me, though, the buck angled toward the field.
I stood up and grabbed my rattling antlers, which were hanging on the tree to my right. I gave tickled them together three or four times, and the buck raised its head and cocked its ears my direction. I could almost read his thought: "That sounded interesting."
The buck moved my way, and I scrambled to get into position for a shot. As I moved, my safety tether wrapped around my head. As I ducked to get it off, it caught on my hearing muffs and sent them bouncing down the hill toward the field and the buck.
When they came to a stop about 10 yards from the field, I glanced over toward the buck, and it was still there! It obviously had heard the sound but wasn’t sure what to make of it.
I still didn’t have a shot, so I tickled the antlers together again. The buck moved about 40 yards into a perfect opening. I took aim and pulled the trigger. "Clack!" Looking down, I saw my cap had fallen off my muzzleloader.
I quickly put on a new cap, re-cocked and looked up. He was still there!
I aimed and squeezed the trigger again, and this time was rewarded with the report of my .45 caliber Thompson/Center.
Looking through the smoke, I saw the buck trotting in the field in a funny "S" pattern. Then it just stopped and fell over.
My first whitetail was a small-racked 8-pointer, but I was thrilled. This year I’m applying for a disability permit and hope to hunt with a crossbow to help extend my hunting time. I can’t pull back a regular bow with my prosthetic limb, but I can’t get enough of deer hunting.
Oliver E. Huffman