By Pat Mosko
-- In 2008, I made the trip back to western New York for opening week of rifle season. It’s a place I call home, even though I now live in Denver and have for four years.
I was nervous about going home. I had not been able to scout since I moved out West, and I knew that the deer patterns were changing. I wasn’t even sure where to sit for opening morning.
My cousin and I had been talking on the phone a few months prior to opening day. He had recently divorced and moved closer to the family, and I was glad to be hunting with him. We hadn’t seen each other in years.
I arrived the night before opening day, washed my clothes, checked my gun, set my alarm, chatted with my parents and headed off to bed.
I saw only a few does the next morning, so I gave our management program a boost by harvesting a mature one. It was a good opening morning, but not what I was used to. I heard very few shots, and almost all of the does I had seen had only one fawn with them. It had concerned me, but I figured things would pick up the next day.
I was wrong. I hunted all day and didn’t see anything. My cousin and I got out of our stands about 10 minutes early because of the stiff wind. We were walking down the path to the house and talking rather loudly when a doe run right for us before jumping into the brush about 45 yards away.
We stopped and listened and were excited to hear a buck grunting where the doe had come from. Six bucks then broke out of the apple orchard, grunting and chasing the doe all around us.
I pulled up on one shooter buck and tried to fire, but my gun had not properly chambered the round. Instead of the loud "Boom!" I expected, all I heard was an annoying "Click!"
My cousin was laughing at me until he spotted an injured buck trailing behind. He pulled up and shot the deer, then quickly turned to me to explain why he had shot. We waited, and I tried to reassure him that it was a good shot. After full dark, went to look and found the deer just 15 yards from where he shot it. It wasn’t a monster, but we both felt good to put down the injured buck and get some meat for the freezer.
The next day, we decided to head out to an thick apple orchard that had produced well for me in the past. About five minutes after we separated to walk to our stands, I spotted a buck at about the same time it spotted me.
With just seconds to decide, I made the shot. I waited for the deer to come into a clearing 60 yards in front of me. I led just a little and squeezed the trigger. The deer side-stepped and disappeared into the brush.
I walked to the spot and waited for my cousin. I am color blind and waited for him to arrive to help track. It was a short tracking job, as the buck had fallen about 20 yards from where I shot it. It was a good shot, taking out both lungs and the heart.
Though my cousin and I had not shot the two biggest deer of our lives, we had a great time. It was a wonderful way to return home.