By Preston Cave
-- During the summer of 2008, I received a call from a good friend, Morris Reece, who had moved to Greensboro to be closer to his workplace. He said he was going to be able to hunt his stand close to my house only around Thanksgiving. Otherwise, I was free to hunt from it.
Morris’ box stand was erected near the Yadkin River bottoms that were planted in corn and soybeans. It overlooked a cut cornfield on the east end of the bottoms.
In September, I started remodeling his old box. The following month, I started seeing large rubs and scrapes in the vicinity, which primed my pump for muzzleloader season.
On opening morning, I had to work at Alliance Display. I saw two fawns that evening.
On Nov. 17 at 3:30 p.m., I picked up my stepson, Christian Jester, from East Bend Elementary on my way home from work. We rushed home to put on camo, and then we headed for the river. I had some estrous doe lure with me and showed Christian how to lay a scent trail with it.
We hung the drag rag on a corn stalk at the edge of the field and settled in the box stand about 4:15.
Whenever I’m in a stand, I always daydream of past hunts while waiting on deer to show. My daughter is now 11. She has taken six deer – her first at age 7. Christian is 8 and got his first deer in 2007. When Ashlyn was 6, she went hunting with me in a ground blind and, while she was playing with her Barbie dolls at my feet, I took a 120-class buck with my bow.
We have most all our hunts on video.
My daydreaming didn’t last long that day because deer started showing up early. We saw two does and a spike about 4:45. I gave my binoculars to Christian for him to get a better look. He’d just had handed them back when I looked to our left at the east corner of the field to see a buck running straight for us.
It got about 200 yards from the box and stopped. The best I could tell, he was an 8-pointer, and his rack was about as wide as his ears. He then darted in the woods.
Just about that time, three more does stepped out in front of us and were 30 yards downwind of the scent rag. Scanning the field with my binoculars back to our left, I saw a small buck that had came out of the river. He stopped long enough to shake off water, and then ran across the field to pick up the trail of the 8-pointer.
As we waited for the 8-pointer to reappear, I asked Christian to watch the does and to let me know if more came appeared.
The sky glowed reddish orange as the sun set. Christian had watched five does in all come out at the edge of the woods, and then he said, “Preston, here comes another one.”
It was a shooter buck!
With a quick look with my binoculars, I got my favorite muzzleloader topped with a Nikon scope out the window. The buck ran out into the field about 50 yards downwind of the doe pee. With its nose in the air, it checked the wind before running toward the does.
One big old doe ran from him, and the chase was on. It ran her all over the cornfield, but the doe had enough of being chased so she quickly rejoined the other gals.
The buck was about 180 yards from us and stood there broadside, not moving a muscle. With steam coming from its nose, it raised its head to check the air. At that point, I got the first good look at the rascal; its head was turned our way.
I guessed it to be a 130-class buck. In this area, that is a very big deer. It was wide; I could tell that for sure.
The crosshairs were steady and high on the buck’s chest. I told Christian to cover his ears just before I squeezed the trigger, and I was sure I heard the bullet hit home. The smoke filled the air just outside the stand, and all 11 of the deer ran off in different directions. This made it hard to know which way my buck went.
I thought it headed for the uncut soybean field, but I wasn’t 100 percent certain. I was sick when we got to where he’d been standing because there was no sign of a hit. After an hour and a half of looking, I had to get Christian out of the cold air.
I knew the best thing was to return in the daytime.
The next day, I couldn’t eat anything because I was too upset. I told Chuck Pinnix what happened. He asked, “Did you have a good rest when you shot?”
“Yes,” I answered, “and I heard the bullet hit the deer.”
He asked if he could go with me to help find it. When we got to the river bottoms, I told the story to him again, pointed to the soybean field and said, “I think he went that way.”
Chuck walked out into the field while I looked for blood or tracks from where most of the deer had entered the soybeans after the shot. Chuck found tracks of a big deer that was running, so I followed them as he doubled back to check the edge of the woods for sign. The tracks were hard to see, at times, but I was not going to give up.
At one point, they turned to the left, so I stopped to decipher the tracks. I looked in that direction and saw antlers rising above the soybeans. I ran closer to get a better look.
There, lying on the ground at my feet, was Mickey Moose! It looked like a Canadian deer. In fact, it was bigger than the 150-class buck I’d shot in Alberta in 2003.
Chuck ran back to see what I was hollering about. He said, “I knew when you said he was a big deer that he would be a good one. But I never expected this.”
Yadkin County is not a place known for big deer.
I called my daddy, Eddie Cave, and best friend Avery Haynes before heading to East Bend Hardware to check-in the deer. Both of them and four other people were waiting on me at my house. More folks came by or called later.
Local taxidermist and good friend Vincent Fleming came to cape the buck. We all guessed him to score in the 160s, but Vincent wanted to get the antlers to his shop to actually measure them. Later that evening, he called me with a gross green score of almost 178 inches.
The next day, my wife, Sandy, called me to tell me about a local hunter –Phillip Scott – who had trail camera photos of my deer. He hunts the western end of the bottoms where I shot my buck.
I felt bad that I had shot a deer that this young man was hunting. So I called Phillip and we talked for a long time. He said he hunted about half a mile from me. He was very nice and e-mailed the trail photos.
At the Dixie Deer Classic, it was officially scored at 178 4/8 (netting an even 170), big enough to garner second place at the show.
I want to give special thanks to Morris Reece, Chuck Pinnix and Ryan for their contributions to my hunt. Also thanks to Avery and Kevin Kimmer for taking the photos.
If you only remember one thing about this story, remember that I got a 120-class deer with a bow and a 180-class buck with a muzzleloader … and BOTH times I was hunting with my kids. So take your kids hunting!