By Justin Knight
-- It was the first week of the 2006 muzzleloader season in central Arkansas. I had talked my supervisor into letting me come into work early so I could leave early to go hunting. The opening weekend had started off well, with decent movement throughout the day, and I was bound and determined to take my first buck of the year with my blackpowder rifle.
I hunt on a small farm with my dad and brother, and none of us took one that first weekend. This made my determination even stronger. What I was not counting on was the temperature rising to almost 90 degrees that week. Anyone knows in this part of the country that the mosquitoes can be tough when hunting over standing water. Combine the water with hot temperatures, and this makes for a miserable hunt. What I didn't realize at first was that by the end of the week a front would come through that would drop the temperature almost 30 degrees.
The weather actually was setting up the perfect conditions to reward my hard work over the past months. Hunting never starts the opening day for me. It starts weeks and months ahead with scouting and preparation.
It was Friday, and I knew there would be more hunters in the woods that weekend to try their luck, which would probably bed the deer down for awhile. Trying to find a good place to hunt in this part of the state is getting tough with the population spreading out to the country in an effort to get away from city life.
Fortunately, I was able to leave work a little extra early on Friday, with plenty of time to spare getting to my stand. After arriving, I had a gut feeling this would be the day. Since I had hunted in 90-degree weather earlier that week, and with the temperature barely creeping above 62 that day, I knew I was in for some action.
I was hunting a nice bottom flat of woods with not much thick brush. I had seen several does that afternoon and was amused by their playfulness, but I wasn't in it for a doe. Suddenly, something spooked the does, and they took off. I waited and waited but nothing showed up except for the pesky mosquitoes indulging on my face and neck.
With about an hour of sunlight left, something told me to make a move. I eased down the logging road in front of me and make my way toward a large field. I'm not sure if it was a sixth sense or the mosquitoes driving me crazy, but I decided to get down and watch the field for the remainder of the hunt.
I made it about halfway down the logging road when I was able to see something on up in the field along the fencerow. I couldn't tell what it was, but I just knew it had to be a whitetail. I had to get closer, but didn't want to run the risk of scaring this one off. So I made friends with the mosquitoes and the standing water by crawling about 100 yards to get a better look.
Sure enough, it was a nice 8-point buck eating persimmons. I tried to see what kind of shot I could get, but there was a hill between the end of my muzzleloader and its front shoulder. I couldn't crawl any closer without being noticed, so I waited on the logging road.
Patience is not one of my favored virtues, but today I was learning a lesson that I would never forget. I must have lain in that road with standing water for 20 minutes and watched this buck's rack and neck before I had clean shot. Matter of fact, the buck never came any closer. The buck rose up on his hind legs to eat the persimmons from a high branch and must have stayed there 30 seconds. Finally, I realized this was my opportunity to take a clean shot.
This 8-point buck is not the biggest buck I have taken, but it has made a memory that I will never forget. All of the hard work throughout the week and fighting the hot weather and mosquitoes really paid off.