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The Whitetail 500

After several laps around the wooded "track," this nice 10-point buck joined the race, only to be taken out by a spectator.
By Roger Roan

-- "Go down the fence row about 80 yards, turn right into the woods, then go south 60 paces and look for a big stump. Turn right and put your stand up in the triple-trunk tree. Think you can find it?" whispered Mark.

We eased down the field access road in the pitch dark, slowly making our way along the field edge and the wood line. "Sure, no problem," I said.

It was a morning hunt on the second week of November. There was no moon, and to top that off, the fog was hanging low in the river bottom as I stumbled through the maze of branches and brush. Going in blind on a whitetail hunt doesn't help your odds much, but the rut was on and I knew anything could happen. My coworker and hunting partner, Mark Lowrance, and I had been on a few interesting deer hunts and this one was no exception.

My expectation was building as I counted my stumbling steps and looked for shadows of the elusive triple-trunk tree. It's surprising how many branches and sticks can break and still you see deer, I assured myself with each awkward step. Mark said a good buck had been seen in the area and that was all it took to get me feeling my way in the dark along the swampy backwater timber. I never found the exact spot Mark had intended for me to go, but I knew I had to be close because I counted four triple-trunked trees in the foggy morning soup.

I found a small opening and thumped my head on a nice tree that suited my climber just fine. The sun soon lifted the fog and pushed the night's cover to the horizon. I was anxious to see if I had gotten my stand close to any game trails in bow range. I was later surprised to see a spike buck making his way along the edge of a grassy drainage ditch about 30 yards out from my stand. I drew an imaginary bow as the buck walked by, remembering how long it took me to get within bow range of a whitetail in my early hunting years.

I'd been there about an hour when I heard the sound of running in the leaves on a far hillside. The wind carried the noise through the timber well before I could see anything approach. It was the spike buck chasing a big doe about three lengths behind her - he was clearly a rookie to the November Rut Races. I had a front row set as they ran past at a mere 5 yards without ever knowing I was there. This alone made a great hunt, but 15 minutes later, the sound of runners on the leafy track came down the trail again.

Thinking it was the same pair on lap two, I just sat watching the deer races go by. A two-year-old 8-pointer had joined the Whitetail 500, and was now in second place ahead of the spike. The two young bucks were still several yards back from the doe as they rounded turn one and headed into the thicket. It had been 30 minutes since I had last seen the trio, and I wondered if the race was over when crunching leaves and grunting led the approach of more racers on lap three.

It suddenly occurred to me that each time the hot little doe passed, she picked up a much bigger contender for the prize. That thought brought this race fan/hunter to his feet with bow in hand. Looking down the straightaway, I could see that a big mature 10-point buck had joined the race but clearly he had no intention of passing the hot doe. They were bumper to bumper when they headed into turn one with the 8-pointer and spike bringing up the rear.

They were moving too fast for me to count points, but I knew the 10-pointer was definitely a shooter. The doe was ready for a pit stop when I yelled, "BUCK, BUCK, BUCK!" The doe suddenly stopped at a mere 7 yards and looked up at me as if to say, "take your pick." The big 10-pointer never took his eye off the white flag the doe slowly raised in front of him when she saw me, and my arrow slammed hard into the unsuspecting buck.

The effect of the shot slowed the 10-pointer quickly, and the other two bucks seemed confused when they passed him to take their new spot in the lineup, and ultimately the pecking order. An hour passed and there was no sign of the rutting racers so I got down, nocked an arrow, and followed the buck's trail. I had only gone about 10 yards before I heard the deer coming again.

They ran by at arm's length, nearly knocking my arrow off the rest. When the rut race is on, stay off the track! Mark soon joined me in locating my trophy, which had gone much farther than I expected. Two inches from the buck's nose was a vintage Coke bottle that fittingly read No Deposit No Return. Now the big 10-pointer and the Coke bottle are my trophies and a lifelong reminder of the day I watched the Whitetail 500.

--Roger Roan

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