By Alexander Korittnig
-- It was the last day of muzzleloader season and the coldest day of the year at 5 degrees with a wind chill of minus 8. I had seen only does moving in the distance after settling in for what seemed to be many hours. In fact, it was closer to only two hours, and I started to glass with my binoculars. Then I caught sight of the deer that had eluded me all bow season. It was 11 points of pure delight.
I nearly dropped my binoculars as I shuffled quietly for my trusty Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter Muzzleloader. The buck was about 75 yards away and moving in my direction. I knew this 4- to 5-year-old buck would not just walk in on me. On several occasions, the buck knew just how far away he needed to be out of bow range.
As predicted, the buck abruptly turned away and presented me with a poor shooting angle.
I thought I had just missed the buck of my dreams. But it was not finished taunting me. The buck made an arc and continued to walk inside shooting range but with a poor presentation. This went on for about 30 minutes, at which time I could not see the buck any longer.
My heart sank to the ground. I just knew if I did not harvest this animal today I would not get another chance. Maybe I would be lucky enough to at least find the sheds in the spring. Then, just as the sun was going down and last shooting time was approaching, the buck followed a doe to within 26 yards of my location. With cold hands and my heart racing, I aimed and shot!
Smoke went everywhere! I had never shot at an animal with a muzzleloader, and I had no idea if I was successful. I waited for what seemed the longest 20 minutes of my life until I could not stand it any longer. So I gathered my gear to see what I had done. Anticipation was just killing me as I walked over to the area where the buck had been standing. But I saw no blood, no hair ... nothing. What had I done?
It snowed just a little that afternoon, and I found tracks going north and south. By that time, I needed my flashlight to follow the tracks going south. I walked 45 yards and saw nothing. I was just sick to my stomach. Did I really miss this monster?
Returning to the point of origin, I followed the tracks north for 26 yards and there was my dream buck. I performed as needed to seal the deal. There was not one drop of blood anywhere along the way or where the buck puddled up.
I mean not one drop of blood.
Thank God for the snow. Then came the task of field-dressing and tagging the buck. That was the easy part. The difficult part was getting it out of there. I phoned everybody I knew to ask for help.
The first to arrive was my wife, Denise. Getting back to the cabin was a delightful chore for me and an ordeal for Denise. We arrived to a fan fare event. Friends joined in the celebration, and I recounted the tale of how I got the biggest buck in all my hunting years. All the years of walking long distances, sitting in the cold and working hard finally paid off.
This night I will remember forever, and I was so glad I could share it with friends and family. Thank you Buckmasters for all of your tips on hunting for that dream buck.
Park Falls, WI