By William (Bill) Rumfelt
-- This is not a story about bringing home the big one or a hunting trip that was a great success. It's about an odd turn of events that occurred in the fall of 2006 and 2007.
Not coming from a family that has a long hunting tradition, I didn't have the opportunity as a small child to experience hunting. At 11 or 12 years of age, I went hunting with a friend. From that day on, I was hooked.
When I was 13, my parents gave me a used 12-gauge double-barrel Stevens for Christmas. No squirrel was safe within two miles of our home.
I've hunted ever since, but being from the last county in North Carolina to have an open season for deer, it wasn't until about 1990 that I became a more serious deer hunter. I've taken more than 60 whitetails, 16 with a bow, since then. Venison is a big staple at my home. Bow, muzzleloader, rifle, you name and I use it. At the age of 61, I'm just as avid about hunting as I was at 13.
In March 2006 at my birthday dinner, my family gave me a gift certificate to Bass Pro Shops with a photo of a trail camera, and there the story begins.
I practiced in our yard with the new camera, to make sure the thing worked. In August 2006, I placed the trail camera at my hunt club, aimed at a feeder. Two weeks later, I swapped the SD card, moved the camera to a 20-acre field, and aimed it at a persimmon tree in the middle of the field. I couldn't wait to download the photos to see what I had. There were turkeys, deer, raccoons, you name it. But one photo caught my eye. A one-horned spike had triggered the camera, but in the background you could see a big-racked deer with something hanging down on the right side. Was it velvet coming off or a drop tine? What are the odds?
After waiting two more weeks, I swapped the SD card again, and once more couldn't wait to view the photos. One was of a huge buck with a drop tine. It was taken at 11:21 p.m. on Aug. 24. But wait, on Aug. 27 at 1:34 a.m., there was another photo of him walking to the left. I now had a photo of him head-on, walking right and walking left. What are the odds?
I was ready for bow season to begin. I took a doe early in the week with no sign of the big buck. On Thursday evening, Sept. 20, things changed. At 7:05 p.m. I saw the backs of six deer entering the field. They were 150 yards away. When they raised their heads, I saw they were all does. Then here he came. The instant I saw the antlers, I knew it was him, drop tine and all. Then came three more does. He had his security force with him, 18 eyes, 18 ears and nine noses. What did he have to worry about?
I was in a portable climbing stand at the edge of the field 18 yards from a persimmon tree. Problem was, there were other persimmon trees in the field as well. The buck walked toward me, but turned back at 60 yards. Then he approached again, stopping at a persimmon tree 60 yards distant.
Suddenly a doe alerted, why I don't know, but she didn't smell me. The buck ran 50 yards to a tall patch of grass and lay down. After a couple of minutes, the doe calmed down and went back to browsing. Then I saw the antlers ease up out of the tall grass. Seeing that everything was OK, he went back to feeding.
Then here he came toward me again. He returned to the persimmon tree, and then another doe alerted and ran. Then he ran. I thought it was over. Five minutes later, they returned to the field, but fed away from me. I watched the buck for 25 minutes. Now it was dark and really over, for today at least. What are the odds?
Then came November, the peak of the rut. Having heard the story and seen the photos, my grandson wanted his turn at the big buck. He was camped at a box stand on the edge of the same field. It was the only place he wanted to hunt. On Nov. 15 at 8:30 a.m., he heard a dog bark about 200 yards away. Thirty minutes later, he saw the form of a deer on the other side of some thick brush. He was getting ready, expecting the deer to enter the field. The dog barked again, and the deer fled across the field. All my grandson could see was the drop tine. He whistled, and then yelled, all to no avail. The deer was gone. What are the odds?
The club's landowner rides the roads on the property when no one is hunting. He checks for trespassers and anything else that might be amiss. On Dec.14, he noticed the ground torn up near the edge of the field where the big buck had been seen. He stopped to investigate and determined that there had been a buck fight. Then he saw something lying in the grass. Picking up an antler, he soon recognized it from the photos.
It was the right antler from the droptine buck, drop tine and all. The antler included part of the pedicle and was broken off, not shed. He gave me the antler, but I was sick. I agreed to give the antler to anyone who killed the deer. It had 10 scorable points and 14 in all, all on just one side! What are the odds?
In early August 2007, I put the trail camera out again. No sign of the deer. On Labor Day weekend, I showed up at the club with my tractor to mow the fields, roads and shooting lanes. My son-in-law called on the way and told me to stop by the landowner's home. Something was there that I should see.
When I pulled in, I saw what he meant. There lay the head of a deer with a huge set of antlers. The landowner had found the carcass about 100 yards behind his barn. Had it been hit by a car, poached or died of natural causes? Who knew? It had to be him. The antlers were palmated on the right side. It had a drop tine on both sides. I could see where the pedicle on the right side had healed. What are the odds?
The landowner gave me the head since I had hunted this deer so hard. I stripped the velvet and had had it mounted with another cape. It has 19 scorable points and 23 three in all. Both bases are 9 inches in circumference. One G3 is 9 1/2 inches, the other is 10 1/2 inches. The deer has been aged at 4 1/2 years old. All this and double drop tines to boot!
I've had a great year so far. I've taken my best deer with a bow (8 points, 175 pounds), plus two does. I'm just looking for another double droptine with lots of stickers, but then what are the odds?
--William (Bill) Rumfelt
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