Michigan hunter's tag sandwiches finally pay off
By Dave DeMara
Several years ago I began passing up smaller bucks, usually at least two per year. In fact, the buck I'm about to tell about is the only buck I have taken since 2005.
It hasn't been easy to eat buck tags for the past five years, but to me it made little sense to harvest small bucks when my hunting area is overrun with does. Just being outdoors and taking does for my freezer is enough to keep me happy.
When the Michigan antlerless season arrived last season, I began to see bucks I'd let walk two months earlier. This was very encouraging. Maybe it was a good sign that other hunters were allowing them to grow up in this heavily hunted area.
My choice of stand location for firearms opening morning was an easy one. It was a place I believed I'd see the most does, and a place I didn't mind hunting all day.
Interestingly, in recent years I've hunted a lot at midday, and my deer sightings have increased dramatically, especially during the rut.
I'd bow hunted this area a few days before the firearm opener, but I did not notice any bucks chasing does at that time. I had a hunch they would be rutting by the time opening day arrived. I still can't believe my hunch was correct!
I never heard them coming. The ground was soft and wet, so the deer were on me without advance warning.
It all happened so quickly, seven or eight seconds at the most.
This story would be a haunting memory and not a happy tale if I'd been daydreaming or hadn't been paying attention.
I first saw the doe running from an overgrown creek bottom northwest of my stand. Then I saw a flash of antler.
With its nose in the air and neck outstretched, the buck ran behind the doe, following her close behind.
The deer were only 40 yards away and they ran through my first shooting lane before I could react.
The next shot opportunity would be to my extreme right, so I had to stand and twist my body.
Thinking back, I'm surprised the buck didn't bust me when I moved. He was probably so distracted by the doe he simply didn't notice me.
I swung the crosshairs to the only opening I had. By some miracle, the buck actually slowed down when he got there. I didn't even have to find it in the scope. It walked directly into my crosshairs.
When I tapped the trigger, I knew immediately that the shot was perfect.
As the buck turned and ran behind my ladder stand, I saw a small blood spot just behind its shoulder.
It started to lose its balance as it passed me, and I heard a crash not far beyond sight of the stand.
I looked at my watch. It was 12:15 p.m. Midday!
It took a few minutes for me to regain my composure so I could safely climb down the ladder. Every deer harvest is exciting, but this one rattled me. I remember the overwhelming sense of relief at that moment.
The funny thing is, before I actually put my hands on the deer, I really thought it was only going to be a respectable 8 or 9-pointer, not what will likely be my deer of a lifetime. Needless to say, I was very happy when I counted 12 points and saw the beautiful split brow tines!
This deer is extra special because the area I hunt has proven tough and frustrating to consistently take good bucks. Hunting on small parcels with tons of hunting pressure and passing small bucks can take its toll on anyone's patience, but this one was worth the wait!