By John Fritz
-- We have a relatively short firearms season here in Indiana (it's 15 days beginning Nov. 15) so the anticipation really starts to build around the first of November. My home and property are adjacent to a heavily wooded coal mine reclamation track surrounded by farmland. It's awesome hunting territory, I've never had any luck there. The grass is always greener, so I usually go elsewhere to hunt deer.
In 2008, I decided to try to break my streak of bad luck and hunt my own property. It's approximately 200 yards from my back door to my stand across my pond, so at least I'd get a little more sleep by hunting at home.
I spent the first five days in my usual stand, morning and evening. I had seen a few does, some turkeys and a flock of geese that had taken up residence in the cornfield adjacent to my land -- but no bucks. Finally, on the sixth evening, a huge buck stepped out right at dark.
I knew from past experience that the deer in our area are heavily pressured and become mostly nocturnal after opening weekend. I also knew a very large buck had been seen by several locals over the past three years. I decided I needed to press the issue.
The next evening, Nov. 21, I decided to go out early and move farther along the edge of the field. It was windy, so I walked just inside the woods to keep from being seen. About the time I thought I was where I needed to set up, I looked up and saw the biggest buck I had ever encountered in the woods.
It was only 20 yards away and looking right at me. I knew it would bolt if I moved, so we both stood there staring at each other for what seemed like 10 minutes. I am sure it was only seconds before the buck walked around a small brush pile to a point where I couldn't see its head. I immediately ducked behind a tree, slowly raised my Remington 870 and waited for but buck to come out from behind the brush.
When it was one step from where I could shoot, the buck raised its massive head, jumped straight in the air and vanished! I couldn't even tell which direction it went!
I was sick.
I spent the next few days back at my original stand without any luck. I didn't see a thing -- even the geese were gone. While not hunting, I spent my time telling my buddies about the big one that got away and lamenting my bad fortune.
On Saturday, Nov. 29, I hunted in the morning and again came up empty. I had to go check on some work, so I quit early. As I was driving, I got a call from my good friend Tony Wolfe. He wanted to push a patch of woods on the other side of my property to try to get a deer for his 11-year-old son, Hunter. I had pretty much given up on the season thought it would feel good to help Hunter get a doe. He likes does because they are better eating, he says.
I got home at about 11:15, and Tony and Hunter were waiting in my driveway. I grabbed my 870, and Hunter and I walked back the fence row to where my woods make a point in the cornfield. It's a natural escape route for deer fleeing the woods across the road.
Tony drove down to the far end of the patch, and before he even got off the road, I saw antlers coming over the rise in the field right toward Hunter. We were about 30 yards apart; he was on the side of the point closest to the woods, and I was around the corner on the other side as a backup.
I whispered, "Big deer coming right at you!" Hunter gave me a wide-eyed look that let me know he had heard.
The buck came over the rise right at him, and that's when I realized it was THE buck.
As the buck got closer, I whispered, "Shoot him! Shoot him!" As it passed within 10 yards of Hunter, the boy's eyes were the size of baseballs -- and he never even raised his gun.
The buck came around the edge of the field, and I was able to place a 12 gauge slug squarely in its right shoulder. It ran across the field and fell almost exactly where I had seen it seven days before.
As Hunter and I celebrated, I asked him why he didn't shoot. I assumed he had suffered a bad case of buck fever, but he calmly replied, "I didn't want to shoot because that was your buck. But I sure wish he had a doe with him."
--By John Fritz