Buckmasters Magazine

That’s No Squirrel

That’s No Squirrel

By Matt Saunders

Ohio youth hunter gets the job done with a single-shot .410.

My 8-year-old son Luke had been bugging me all summer about getting him a .410 shotgun so he could go hunting with me. I finally caved in and bought him a Rossi single-shot .410 and his apprentice license. I taught him how to be safe with the gun and respect its power, and also to respect the game he would be hunting.

He handled the gun well, so I took him squirrel hunting a few times. He had really been begging me to let him go deer hunting, so I decided to take him out during Ohio’s youth weekend, Nov. 18 and 19, 2006. We set up in a treestand that I had been using for many years with good success.

On Saturday, we were fortunate to have a very nice buck come within about 40 yards, but Luke couldn’t get a clear shot. I think my heart was pumping faster than his as the beautiful buck approached. He was very disappointed, but I told him he did the right thing in not taking the poor shot. I couldn’t believe he’d actually seen and been that close to shooting a buck on his first deer hunt.

I knew he wasn’t going to get much sleep as he told me he would definitely get that deer the following day. I let him talk but knew the chances of us even seeing that buck again were slim.

We went back to the same stand in the morning. An hour after daylight, we heard some noise down in a hollow. I caught a glimpse of two deer but really couldn’t tell what they were. A half-hour later, I spotted a doe about 70 yards out. I knew there were two deer and was hoping the second was a buck, so I told Luke to wait.

A few seconds later, the same big buck that we had seen the day before came out of the pines chasing the doe. He was grunting at her and had his nose down and was definitely in rut. The pair meandered around out of range for what seemed like forever. Then, finally, the doe came a little closer, with the buck not far behind. At just 35 yards, the buck stopped and looked right at Luke. I whispered, “Take him.” Then it became, “Take him!” Followed by, “TAKE HIM!”

Even at his young age and just his second time in the stand, he was taking his time to make sure he had a good, clean shot. It felt like an eternity for me; I was worried about a repeat of the previous day’s outcome. Luke finally took the shot, and the buck took off, barreling through the woods like he wasn’t touched.

Luke was extremely excited and was positive he hit the deer, but I wasn’t so sure. He had done very well target shooting, but my 30 years of deer hunting told me that shooting targets and monster bucks are two very different challenges. I had my hands full just to get him to wait before we got down to look for blood.

Finally, neither of us could take it any longer, and I told Luke to stay put so he could tell me exactly where the deer was when he shot. As I got down and starting to walk away, I said a little prayer that I would find blood or hair, any kind of sign of a hit.

I found a small patch of white hair, but no blood. I tried to keep his hopes up, but I had serious doubts that Luke had made a fatal shot. I could see the deer’s trail through the leaves, so I followed it about 20 yards before I began to see small drops of blood about the size of a dime.

I marked the spot and told Luke we needed to leave the deer alone and head back to the house for a few hours. After lunch, we told my brother and nephew the story. My brother had been watching this deer for some time and knew it was a real nice buck. Luke, meanwhile, was getting anxious to get back out in the woods.

My brother and nephew sat point on the other side of the thicket where the deer headed. Luke and I picked up the trail and slowly started to track. I lost the blood trail several times and had to backtrack, at times getting on my hands and knees to search.

Luke was almost crying as he could see my desperation to find sign and kept saying, “I didn’t get it. I know I didn’t get it, Dad.” I told him to keep his hopes up, and as I stood up to cross a fence, my eyes fell on the massive buck lying right there on the trail. I couldn’t believe my eyes and let out a huge yell. “You got him, Luke! You got him!”

He ran over and I gave him a high-five as we walked toward his deer. As we approached, the antlers just got bigger and bigger. It was a beautiful 8-pointer with a 21-inch spread and really long tines. The rack was almost perfectly symmetrical except one brow tine that had about a half-inch knocked off the top. It was a deer any seasoned hunter would be very proud of, and Luke had claimed it on only his second day deer hunting with a single-shot .410.

He’d made a beautiful shot on the deer, hitting it low in the neck. The slug never exited, resulting in the poor blood trail, but there’s no doubt the buck went down less than a minute after the shot. I’m sure Luke will be an avid hunter the rest of his life, and neither of us will ever forget this. I’m just thankful to have been a part of it.

This article was published in the December 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd