By Brandon Faulkner
-- The middle of October in eastern North Carolina brings the beginning of gun season in Vance County. I had recently moved back to my small community after 20 years of city living, and, eagerly, I waited for the first week of the season. I own 37 acres that is commonly referred to as the "Honey Hole" by some of the county's long-time resident hunters. Fifteen acres of the property surrounds a spring-fed pond and loads of mature white and red oaks that drop tons of acorns. The land is also surrounded on each side by soybean fields.
I scheduled my vacation for opening week as soon as I found out the dates of our gun season. However, my spirits were somewhat dampened when I found out my wife's cousin was getting married on opening day. Thankfully the wedding was "only" a 2 1/2-hour drive away, which allowed me to hunt during the morning. The deer activity that first morning was awesome. I started seeing deer immediately after daylight broke. Three hours passed, and I saw five bucks and 13 does. As a side note, I was almost late to the wedding because the deer stayed in the field, which resulted in a late exit from the stand. For us married hunters, this is a near death sentence to future hunting trips.
I hunted hard for the next week and saw plenty of deer and was tempted by a high-racked 6-pointer. I raised my gun but something told me to wait. Friday, Oct. 20, came with anticipation and angst as I knew my week of hunting would end soon. I would be spending my weekends moving from Charlotte and beginning the renovations on my old farmhouse. It was not an ideal day for deer hunting. The temperature was 72 degrees and the wind was blowing 15-20 mph with even higher gusts. I thought it was a waste of time to start out that day, but decided to wear my Scent-Lok clothes and headed for my stand.
As expected, I saw absolutely nothing for two hours. I thought about heading home when I caught a glimpse of something near my cousin's gravel path, which was about 150 yards away. I reached for my binoculars, although I really didn't need them since at 150 yards I knew this buck was a shooter. I said, "Lord, please let him come my way!" I watched in agony for the next 20 minutes as the deer sauntered through a soybean field toward my stand.
I am a devoted shotgunner, and I had to wait for him to get within 60 yards of my stand. I began to fight the impending dark, and I knew that soon legal shooting light would pass. Finally, the buck crested a small knoll in a meadow strip and stood broadside at 60 yards. I knew it was now or never.
When I pulled the trigger, the shot connected, the buck kicked and then took off like nothing had happened. The deer was at full gallop, and I knew it was worthless to attempt another shot. I sat in my stand replaying the event for about 10 minutes before heading to where the buck stood when I fired.
After searching hard for any indication of a hit, I found none. I walked in the direction the buck took when it ran away. The buck traveled about 30 yards and had dropped in the edge of the soybean field. I walked toward the buck and though it was down for the count. Suddenly the deer disappeared into the thick underbrush and toward a hidden creek bed.
I was disappointed because I thought the deer was wounded. I was also a bit optimistic because I thought I heard the deer fall and struggle to get out of the creek. At this point, the day turned to night, so I gathered my gear and headed home.
My family was gathered at my parent's house for dinner and I regaled them with my story. I called my buddy, Jamie Morgan, and asked him to meet me at my parent's house so we could track down my buck. Jamie and I headed for the cutover, along with my wife, Jennifer, an ardent city girl and keeper of the permission slips. We searched for any sign of blood where the deer first laid down at the edge of the field, but we didn't find any sign.
I began to have doubts that my shot did anything but stun that deer. Maybe the buck was too far away for my 3-inch 00 buckshot. We began to fan out in the thick cover and arrived at the creek where I thought I heard the buck struggle. I pointed my flashlight up the creek and found my buck.
While for many this may not be the deer of a lifetime, it certainly was for me. It ended a week I won't soon forget. I was able to spend a week away from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy the beautiful world the Lord has so richly blessed us with.
Oxford, North Carolina