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Smokepole Buck

By PhotoRicky Riner

-- At the age of 16 most kids are focused on getting their driver's licenses and spending time away from home. Though that statement might have been true when I was this age, on one particular day it could not be further from the truth.

I'd only had two or three deer harvests under my belt and none of these deer had antlers. I'd been looking forward to my next hunt with my father and grandfather for weeks.

It was opening day of the firearms season in Maryland. At this time my family had permission to hunt a large field near Poolesville, Md., in Montgomery County. Because Maryland is a zoned hunting state, which restricts the deer season regulations regarding weapons used and bag limits, we were restricted to using either shotguns or muzzleloaders. I stepped foot into the field that day with my brand new T/C Encore .50 caliber muzzleloader with a Nikon scope and loaded with 150 grains of Pyrodex and a Power Belt bullet. My father and grandfather were also using T/C Encore .50 caliber muzzleloaders.

Before daylight, my grandfather and I dropped my dad off at the top of a field then drove to the normal parking area at the bottom of the field. There was a thick stretch of woods that separated where we parked and where the field was with a small road cut through to access it.

My grandfather and I got our gear on, loaded our guns, and started down the road toward the field just as the sky started turning blue. Although it was mid-November, it was a touch colder than it had been the past couple of days. There was a light fog over the field.

As we approached the field through the fog, I made out a couple of deer shadows in the field. We slowly worked our way to the field's edge. The light started to open up a bit for us, and we could finally make out the deer. None of them appeared to have antlers.

One of the deer snorted just as I raised my gun up. Then, they all began to trot out of the field and into the woods. I followed one in my scope until it stopped. I cocked the gun and aimed just behind the deer's shoulder. I hesitated just long enough to hear my grandfather tell me to shoot it. I squeezed the trigger. The next thing I knew, the scope has knocked the hat off my head and smoke was everywhere in front of us.

Once the smoke had cleared I was disappointed because we did not see a deer lying in the field. We made our way out to where the deer had been standing. As soon as we started to round a small hill I saw the white belly of a deer. As we walked closer, I began to form a smile that felt like it went from ear to ear once the deer's antlers came into view.

The four points stuck up about 10 inches from the top of its ears. My 162-yard shot was perfect. It went in just behind the left shoulder and exited out in front of its right shoulder.

Finally, I had harvested my first buck. What better way could I have spent opening day? My grandfather was beside me, my father was in the same field and I shot the buck with my new T/C Encore, which was a Christmas present from my dad.

With hunting properties in my area disappearing into city sprawl and development, it's hard to imagine what hunting is going to be like in the future. No matter what the condition, I'll at least have good memories like this one to keep me going.
 
Ricky Riner
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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