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The Nuclear Buck

MadisonBy Walter Madison

-- This is a hunting story that shows just how far most of us will go to go hunting and be in the great outdoors. Last November, my work sent me to a nuclear power plant in Surry, Va., to fix a refueling outage. We were working 13-hour night shifts and trying to hunt during the mornings and evenings. It was prime rut time, but our backs were against the wall as we got to the woods late and had to leave early just to get some sleep.

My buddy and I hunted hard for three days and saw some deer, but not the trophies we were looking for. With time running out on the rut and muzzeloading season, it was looking mighty grim. On the morning of the next to last day of the season, I climbed into my stand where some of the old timers in the area said would be the best place to take a monster buck.

The stand overlooked a power line between a bean field and a thick stand of pines. About a half hour later, I saw a large buck tearing up a tree with his antlers over top of a big scrape. As I waited for the perfect shot, I figured all the hard hunting was finally going to pay off. It seemed like it took forever, but the old boy finally decided to move, offering a 70-yard broadside shoot. I took a good aim and squeezed the trigger — and missed!

The buck just stood there as if to tease me and as I tried to reload. Then it started walking toward me! It got as close as 40 yards before disappearing into the pines. I kicked myself all the way back to the truck, and it was hard to sleep as I replayed the shot over and over in my mind. I finally decided to get out of bed and go re-sight my gun (keep in mind we were supposed to be sleeping throughout the day).

It took most of the afternoon, but I finally got my gun right — just in time for the evening hunt time. I decided to go back to the same stand and was only there about an hour before you-know-who came out of the thicket heading back for the scrape. At about 50 yards, I took aim and squeezed. I looked hard after the smoke cleared, but the buck had vanished.

My mind started to race. Did I get him or not? I had the sight on its vitals, but my mind was cooking up all kinds of bad things. Because I never saw the buck run off, I had to find out something. I climbed down and started to search, looking and looking broom-straw grass. It was getting close to the time I needed to head to work and I was just about to call it a miss when I made one more pass. And there was the buck, right where I had shot it. I hadn’t marked the spot well enough before I left my stand, but there was no mistaking the scrape where the buck was piled up.

So in the end, all the hard hunting paid off with a nice mainframe 9-pointer with some stickers. I never thought about all the sleep I missed throughout the rest of the job. If I felt tired, all I had to do was think about that big 9-pointer and I would perk up and smile. What’s a little missed sleep compared to hunting the rut!

Walter Madison
Mineral, Va.

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