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Thanksgiving Bruiser

By Nick Erway

Thanksgiving BruiserAlthough I live in Newport, Perry County, Penn., I’m originally from the Elmira/Corning area of New York State. Before moving to Pennsylvania, I purchased a lifetime sportsmen license, which allows me to hunt small game, deer and fish in my home state for the rest of my life.

Usually the week before Thanksgiving, I return to New York every year for a few days of hunting. I normally take a buck or a doe, and do not hold out for a larger buck because I only have a couple days to hunt.

The year I took the 160-class buck, 2006, was no exception. The only things I did differently were scouting the area prior to the season and clearing some brush where I planned to set up a ground blind.

My 13-year old grandson, Brenden, would be hunting with me, and by using a ground blind, we would be less visible. It is hard for an adult to sit still for hours while hunting, let alone a youngster.

The previous year, I had hunted the same patch of woods. It was a good location, but the small beech trees and raspberry canes had really grown up and limited the visibility, so I chose a different stand site.

I drove up Friday evening to stay at my son’s place the evening before the season opener. We would be hunting a hillside only a quarter mile from my son’s home, in woods that borders on a large overgrown power line right-of-way. The blind overlooked a heavily used deer trail about 25 yards away. During my scouting trip, I found 15 to 20 fresh scrapes along the trail.

It was the first year that rifles were allowed to be used in the area. Previously, only shotguns were allowed. I decided to take Savage bolt-action rifle in .270 Winchester.

Opening morning arrived, and we carried the ground blind, chairs and lunch, coffee and water down the power line in the dark and got set up just as light began to appear. My intention was to stay there all day. I also brought a small propane tank and single burner to use to knock the chill off if necessary. As I get a little older, I find ways to be more comfortable in the deer woods in late November.

It was a nice morning, about 34 degrees, and the stars were out making for a clear sunny day to come. I would have preferred some overcast, but it sure was better than the rain that was forecast.

Hearing the first shots as usual while it is still so dark, I always wonder how they can even see the deer. We waited for several hours with no deer movement around us and very little shooting in the immediate area and much off in the distance, either.

I lit up the heater about quarter to 9 and all was quiet and still. The little bit of heat felt good. About 9:10 a.m., we heard something coming down the power line right behind us. Suddenly a large doe came running down the edge of the power line where we had walked several hours earlier. She was running pretty hard, and there was a buck right behind her chasing her. They were no more than 25 feet from us and never slowed down.

There was no opportunity for a shot, so we just watched them run past and disappear into the thick brush below. I took out my grunt tube and bleat can and made some calls, but the deer never slowed down. Hearing movement again, we watched yet another buck run right past us in pursuit of the doe, and he never slowed down, either. I grunted with a tube and bleated a couple of times with the can, but soon he, too, was gone.

I told Brenden the deer were not pushed past us, but seemed to be rutting. Maybe the doe would come back along with the two bucks that were after her and give us another opportunity.

Several minutes went by, and we heard movement again behind us. Looking over to the power line, I was surprised to see large white antlers moving down the hillside.

From the size of the white rack I knew it was a large buck. We never actually saw much of the deer, just the antlers moving downhill.

The antlers stopped moving about 35 yards in front of us. The buck was in the area I’d had cleared weeks earlier. I pulled the rifle up, settled the crosshairs and pulled the trigger.

Brenden shouted, “You got him Grandpa! You got him!” He started to unzip the blind to go to the deer, but I stopped him. We needed to watch to make sure he didn’t get up and run. If he did, I wanted to be in the best position for another shot.

After maybe 30 seconds to a minute of trying to hold him back, Brandon said, “He is lying right there on the ground.” Well, off we went and started down the hill.

I fell once trying to go over the cuttings and broken branches. We were going straight to the spot  I’d last saw the buck and not walking around the fallen trees. Once we got past the branches and the goldenrod, I spotted the deer on the ground and realized what a large buck I’d just taken.

I started to tremble with excitement and said, “Oh my God! Look at that buck!”  When I started counting the 16 points, I could not believe it. The deer was very large. I had never seen anything like it, not even on TV and surely never thought I would take one in this class.

The shot went right into the base of the neck and severed his neck bone. He dropped instantly and never knew what hit him.

In New York State, there is a minimum of 140 inches of antler for a buck be included in the Big Buck Club Records. The Boone and Crockett minimum for Award level is 160 inches. This buck qualified for both. The BTR official score is 171 and the composite score is 190 4/8.

I never would have believed this would happen. One never knows what can walk past at any given moment.

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