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The Early Bird Doesn't Always Get the Buck

Chris CountsBy Chris Counts

-- Up before daylight, sit all day, don't make a sound and keep a watchful eye.  Every hunter develops a philosophy about hunting white-tailed deer. Some hunt only in the morning; others swear by late afternoon. Some use lunar tables, topographical maps and various methods short of calling a psychic hotline to guarantee success.  Hours of scouting and planting food plots are part of the pre-season ritual to ensure the prize. Then there's the adage about being in the right place at the right time to throw all those preparations out the window.

I have always tried to be a courteous hunter and get to the hunting area on time, if not early, to visit with other members in our club and make sure everyone gets their stand of choice.  We have all had hunters who get to the woods long after everyone else is settled into their stand, and then proceed to drive their ATV on their way to empty stand, waving at you the whole time. 

Our lease is no different than many others.  We have a board at the entrance that pinpoints each stand location and each hunter hangs their name tag on the stand they are hunting that day.  No big deal, right? 

On December 1, 2001, I happened to be The Late Guy.

I woke up late. It was a full moon, and I knew I wasn't going to get the stand I wanted to hunt that morning. But, I know "you can't take 'em lying in bed," so I headed to the lease. Just as I suspected, we had a board filled with hunters morning, which left my options thin.  Being a nice guy, I hung my tag on the only stand I could get to without disturbing anyone. 

After parking my ATV, I walked to my stand, climbed up, got settled and waited.  The sweat was dripping from my face, but I could still see my breath. The sun had just broken the horizon, and my adrenaline had slowed from my frantic morning activity. Being an optimist, I figured I'd sit back and hope because of the full moon the night before -- and which was still visible -- that deer would move late. At least, I might get a shot at a doe. 

Around 7:15 a shot rang out in the direction of the stand I'd planned to be in that morning.  I was not happy.  Someone else got my deer.  So I folded my arms, got comfortable and planned to enjoy nature and take a nap.  I thought I had no shot at getting a deer. Frustration set in a little bit.

Less than 20 minutes later, I glanced over my left shoulder and saw movement.  Sunlight had made its way through the trees. I was hunting a pipeline when a doe stepped out, then another one. I adjusted my seat and got ready for my shot.  By this time there were three or four does feeding, and that's when I thought shadows were playing tricks on me. I saw the sun beaming off antlers.  I started counting points, but didn't want to risk this bruiser getting away because I knew he was a shooter.  It was the biggest deer I'd seen that wasn't on TV with Jackie Bushman or Bill Jordan!

The buck walked out and began to feed with the does.  I got into position, put the crosshairs on it, and my scope fogged up. In a panic, I wiped the scope clear, took a deep breath, and squeezed the trigger.  His tail tucked, he jumped and headed into the woods.  My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.  I knew I made a good shot.  I sat for what seemed like hours before  I climbed out of the stand and walked toward my mark. 

I took three steps into the woods and all I saw was that there was no ground shrinkage. This was the biggest deer I'd taken up to this point -- 210 pounds, 10 points and a 17 1/2 inch inside spread. The rack had some neat characteristics. Both tips of the P3s point toward each other, perhaps the result of a fight. This was definitely a trophy buck for me.

This shows that the early bird doesn't always get the buck. When luck is with you, all the planning seems to be overrated, in my case, anyway.  And that first shot of the morning, from the stand I wanted to hunt from? It brought down a nice 8 point buck.

Chris Counts
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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