The experience from a hunting man
More than once throughout the course of my 55 year hunting career, it has been necessary to wait until the final bell was about to ring before I was successful at filling my tag. Just three years ago while hunting whitetails at Buffalo Point, the setting of this story, the same thing had happened. I ended up killing my buck walking out of the woods on the last day of the hunt. Such an experience drives home the true meaning of the colloquialism, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” And in the end, it’s all about timing.
An experience that I shared with Drew Thunder, our guide and the Buffalo Point Gamekeeper, this past fall not only qualifies as one of those last minute bucks, but also, it may well go down in my personal archives as one of the most exciting hunts I have ever experienced, due in part to the role Drew played in the hunt.
It went something like this…
It was the last day of the hunt. I should have actually left for home the day before, but departing from the enchanting land of Buffalo Point is not always an easy thing to do once you have been there for a few days. Especially when the bucks are in rut and working the wilderness like the hardcore professionals that they are.
Drew and I have shared some great adventures together over the years that I have been hunting there. Adventures that have given me a deep respect and admiration for this very special man. On the last day of my hunt, Drew and I had agreed that I would hunt from dawn till about 10:00 a.m., at which time I would head back to my cabin, pack my gear, load the truck and head for home. I definitely had to be back in Minnesota by the following day as I had important things to do there. The hunt had taken place over the Presidential election and I had promised Karen that if Hillary won, I would be staying in Canada. However, she had lost so I was faced with the fact that I must go home.
The ground blind I was hunting from was situated at a narrow bottleneck of trees that separated two very large swamps. It was a perfect location with heavy whitetail traffic evidenced by the trails, rubs and scrapes scattered around the site. The blind was nestled into the edge of thick cover just twenty yards from the hub of deer trails that branched out in every direction from that central point. To sweeten the deal, Drew had been depositing deer food-stuffs at the hub, just to hold the animals there long enough for photos and perhaps a killing shot should an acceptable buck come along.
I got a peek at the photos that had been taken by the trail camera that monitored the activity at this spot and it was impressive. The star character was a 14-point buck the was a regular visitor to the spot. Long tines, wide spread and symmetrical arrangement of points made for an impressive crown, not a lot of mass, but still, what a buck. There was just one small problem, although the buck was on the camera nearly every day, it was usually there between midnight and 4:00 a.m.. Not a single photo of the buck during the daylight. But with the rut at full roar, one just never knows what might happen and I was dedicated to finding out, at least until the time I had to go home, which was fast approaching.
Just to sweeten the deal a bit, that disk also contained photos of other shooter bucks and even a couple of shots of bears and a wolf, which are also fair game on the Combo Hunt. As a matter of fact, I had seen an assortment of 8-pointers at this blind, usually early in the morning or the last thing at night, but they were just too small for me to get really excited about, so I did my shooting with my camera instead of my Scorpyd.
I had been hunting this particular spot heavily for the last three days as I had a secondary reason for doing so. Two days prior, I had lost my cell phone and after careful analysis of the circumstances, I was pretty sure that it was lying somewhere between where I parked the truck and the blind, so I had been carefully looking when entering and leaving the stand. Unfortunately half the time I was using a flashlight because it was dark. To make matters worse, the phone was secured in a camouflage case. Really smart, eh? People get so excited over camo accessories, which is cool, except if you happen to drop that item in the woods somewhere. At any rate, up to this point in time, I had not found the missing phone and time was running out… fast!
I had seen a small buck from the blind as the darkness had melted into day. The rest of the morning, I sat there watching for the big one, but spending most of my time reading a Reader’s Digest magazine, a usual hunting partner of mine. When 10:00 a.m. had nearly come, I began to pack my gear, when suddenly I caught movement deep in the brush. A deer was approaching. I froze as I waited to see what materialized. It was a doe. Considering my options, I decided to sit until the whitetail moved on. I was already a day late in my departure so what was another few minutes? Besides, I learned a long time ago, there is no better decoy than the real thing.
Meanwhile… Drew had decided to come help me pack up and exit the woods thinking that we would give the area a good going over looking for the lost cell phone. He arrived and parked by my truck and then slowly began to work his way towards the blind as he scanned the ground carefully for the missing phone. Now I have to be honest… as many of you know, I have only one functioning eye and that one’s performance is deteriorating with advancing age. So in spite of the fact that I had made nine trips to and from the blind (remember five of them were in the dark) without finding the wayward phone, Drew found it in the first five minutes of looking. Now keep in mind that Drew is 28 years old and has keen vision, which is why when we are tracking a deer together, I like to have him on the blood while I play rover as I have a lot of faith in his keen eyesight. And once again that finely honed vision scored, making the lost found.
Pleased with his success, Drew moved towards my blind and stopped once he got into the woods, sitting down on a large mound of dirt where he planned on waiting for me to leave the blind. He was not sure whether there might be deer in front of me or not, so he decided he would wait until he heard me moving about. Thank you, Drew!
Drew claims that he hadn’t been sitting there 30 seconds when he heard leaves crunching. Here comes Dan, he thought, but then he realized the crunching was coming from behind him, not from in front of him where I was located. He instinctively froze!
The mound of dirt he was sitting on was separated from the edge of the swamp by five yards of thick poplar trees. The crunching leaves, Drew quickly determined was coming from the other side of the trees. As the telltale crunching continued, Drew finally caught movement out of the corner of his eye along the edge of the slough. It was a big 8-point buck which was glancing in Drew’s direction, but seemed far more interested in what was ahead.
Back at the blind, I had been watching the doe who had suddenly lost interest in food and was now locked in an intense stare at something behind my blind. The windows on both sides and the back of my blind were closed so I could not see anything behind me, but I knew that something was up. Then suddenly, as does so often do when they are not ready to breed and they are being approached by a lustful buck, she snorted loudly, spun and was swallowed up by the thick forest. As I waited, with my crossbow mounted on my shooting stick, the buck moved past the blind in the direction of where the doe had last been standing. As it moved by, my heart jumped into my throat… it was definitely a shooter. There seems to be a pretty large gene-pool at Buffalo Point for the standard 8-point buck, and there was no denying that this was one of those handsome animals.
Waiting until the buck came to a standstill, I eased the safety off my crossbow and brought the top reticle to the bucks shoulder. The buck was quartering away from me and it was an extremely narrow shot that was being offered, I would have to be right on. But the confidence I had built up shooting the Scorpyd Orion left no doubt in my mind that along with the broadhead and arrow I was using, I could and would make a good shot.
I squeezed the trigger, which quickly released my arrow, startling everything in the immediate area. The buck jumped and bounded a few times disappearing into the heavy underbrush. At that point in time, I thought I heard someone quietly say something, but the adrenaline gushing through my system, the confinement of the blind and the inadequacy of my hearing, even with the hearing aids convinced me I was mistaken. So there I sat.
Shaking like a leaf, I fought for control while re-cocking my bow, which turned out be a bit of a challenge. Then I stood up and peed before I wet myself, something that I had needed to do for quite some time now. Once the chores were done, I just sat there until I couldn’t stand it any longer, finally unzipping the door. It was exactly at that moment I learned that Drew was in the area as his grinning face, which was a mere foot away from mine greeted me with a loud and very startling, “Hi!” He honestly scared the snot right out of me.
I was delighted to see that Drew was just as excited as I was as he quickly told me his side of the story, accenting the narration by handing me my cell phone. Once out of the blind, we organized to track the buck trying to ramp down our excitement and the fun we were having over the whole adventure as we giggled like a pair of excited little boys.
The buck was still alive, laying on the ground. As we approached it stood up and I put another arrow through it. It went just a few short yards and went down. The blood trail was incredible and very massive, but we had to skin the animal to know the entire story.
The narrow angle I had for my shot, proved to be a bit tricky, but made a very profound statement about the equipment I was using for this hunt. The arrow had entered the animal behind the rib cage at over 400 fps, taking out all of the ribs on its right side. The 3-bladed Grim Reaper Hades, had come out of the buck in front of the shoulder and then re-entering and passing through the stag’s throat sealing its fate and creating that incredible blood trail. It had been a fine and very damaging shot that produced the desired result, although it had made quite a mess.
We took some photos, dressed the animal and then moved deer and equipment back to the truck. The hunt was over, but once again it had all been about timing. Deciding to give it one last shot in the morning before leaving for home was timing. The doe coming in at quitting time, causing me to extend the hunt…definitely timing! Drew arriving when he did, finding my phone and then sitting down to wait for me, 30 seconds before the buck approached was some of the most incredible timing one could imagine. We both agreed that there was no denying that buck going down…it was just meant to be.
I want to thank Drew Thunder for another incredible adventure, one of the many that we have shared together over the years in our pursuit of the wild things of Buffalo Point. There are so many things I admire about Drew, but perhaps one of the very best, and definitely my favorite, is his timing!