By Bennie L. Wynkoop
-- On Dec. 5, 2005 – two days before my 52nd birthday – the alarm woke me at 4 a.m. After checking the weather outside in Virginia Beach, Va., I got dressed and started packing my hunting gear in the truck. My son’s friend, Robert, showed up around 4:15 to catch a ride to Bent Barrel Hunt Club in Sussex County.
Whenever Robert and I hunt together, usually from adjacent stands, one of us always gets a nice deer.
After stopping for coffee and sandwiches, we reached the clubhouse around 6:10 and put our names on the hunting sheet.
The hunt master decided we’d do two hunts that day, the first on a tract in Jarrett and the second on the club’s “640,” one of our favorite spots. After the stands were drawn, we all drove to the Jarrett piece and took up our positions. Robert and I drew adjacent stands, and we both opted to take our climbers.
Upon arriving at the hunt site, we were pleased to see that loggers had thinned out the pine trees, which allowed for more visibility.
We’d been in our stands about 45 minutes when I heard Robert fire three times. Twenty minutes later, he shot again. I yelled over to him, asking if he was okay, and he answered that he’d shot a 6-pointer.
When the hunt was over, he and I went back to the clubhouse to check-in Robert’s deer, while the rest of the club members proceeded on to the next parcel. After hanging the deer in the skinning shed, we got to the 640 and drew the very last stands, which required about a three-quarter-mile walk.
We shouldered our climbers and took off in search of climbable trees. Robert dropped off first. I went another 150 yards and found a nice tree on the edge of the cutover. I climbed about 30 feet, high enough to even see Robert in his stand in the distant hardwoods.
Ninety minutes into the hunt, just as I started to take off my jacket, I heard a noise over my right shoulder. I turned and saw two large bucks jumping through the cutover about 80 yards from me. I stood up and realized they were quartering away from me and that they would soon cross a freshly cut path. I waited until they hit the path. I fired two shots at the first buck and one at the second.
The first buck jumped into the thicket; the second one turned and ran back across the cutover and into the woods. Robert, who’d been watching, called me on the radio to say he thought I’d hit the first deer.
I waited about 40 minutes before getting down and walking to the landmark – a blowdown – I’d fixed in my mind. When I thought I’d reached the fallen tree, I waded into the knee-high thicket. An hour later, having found no sign whatsoever, I decided to retrieve my climber and return to the truck. I passed Robert on the way back and told him I couldn’t find any blood or hair.
I made it to the other side of the cutover and sat down to take a drink of water. Since it was only about 3:15, I decided to walk the other side of the cutover and maybe push a deer to Robert. Along the way, I came upon a path that looked like the one the deer were crossing earlier, so I took it.
Soon afterward, I realized that my initial search had been in the wrong place. I looked toward my stand, looked at Robert’s, and then triangulated until I found a trail leading into some heavy brush. About 30 yards down that trail, I spotted my deer on the ground. It was an 11-pointer – the biggest buck I’ve taken in 18 years of hunting.
But that wasn’t the end of my good fortune in 2005.
On Dec.17, our club got to hunt a farmer’s 3-year-old cutover outside Franklin (in South Hampton County). It was surrounded by freshly harvested cornfields. My son, Brian, and Robert were with me that day. In all, there were about 25 hunters who surrounded the cornfield.
Forty minutes after we’d all taken our positions, the dog men released. When the hounds closest to me drew near, I heard a loud noise and saw a huge buck emerge from the cutover. He was going to loop back into the thick stuff, but he saw another set of dogs and turned my way.
The 10-pointer came within 10 yards of me. When I took the broadside shot, he fell and rose again. A second shot stopped him.
I could not believe I had a second buck to take to the taxidermist! And yet I still wasn’t done for the year.
On Dec. 31, my wife and I were discussing which New Year’s Eve party we were going to attend … after I got back from hunting that day. Robert, Brian and I were running late to get to the club; we thought we might even miss the hunt.
We arrived just as the other members were packing to leave for the first drive. The hunt master told us to take stands that overlooked a grassy area beside a large cutover. We drove the 45 minutes to Dinwiddie County and took our positions. Mine was atop a large dirt pile from which I could monitor a small creek that ran through the cutover. Brian used Robert’s climber and went about 75 yards farther down the road.
A half-hour later, I went back to my truck to get a small seat. Fifteen minutes after I returned to the dirt pile, I heard some noise in the pines behind me.
I was stunned to see four bucks a mere 20 yards away. The first one was a small 5- or 6-pointer, but the second one was a huge (23 6/8-inch-wide) 5x5. I turned and fired at the bigger buck, and he fell right there. A second shot closed the lid.
When Brian and I loaded the buck and drove to the gathering point, Robert and the rest of the gang started an auction for who was to get my lucky horseshoe, which they swore I had stuffed somewhere on my body.