Thinking Like an Alpha

OXN939

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2018
Messages
484
Location
VA
This story actually started last year, towards the end of an unsuccessful Whitetail season. In 2018, I hunted blackpowder season hard. Passed on a few pretty decent animals, but never found a definitive shooter until about two minutes before last light on my last day to hunt- and didn't get a shot I felt good about taking.

Fast forward to this year. Hunted opening day, starting very conservatively to get eyes on the area. Activity was consistent throughout the day and deer looked relaxed. Good signs. That night, a high pressure system set in- my watch read 28 degrees at first light the next morning. I know that science points to photoperiod as the greatest contributor to rut activity, but I've observed well-timed cold snaps to have an effect as well. With this in mind, I decided the conditions were right to burn one of my best spots that afternoon.

I got in early as quietly as possible for a long sit. The going was, to put it mildly, not easy. I carried my climber probably almost half a mile through cypress swamps and briar thickets to one of the densest, nastiest areas on the lease- right where I suspected my guy from 2018 to have come from. Vines and ivy constricted shooting lanes so that the longest possible shot was 75 yards. A great place to be if you're an animal that doesn't like to be seen, I hoped.

By about 4:30, I was second guessing myself. There are plenty of other stand locations I could have chosen that allow you to cover the convergence of multiple trails and a much greater area, which has always been a successful technique for finding seeking bucks this time of year. The wind started swirling towards the direction I anticipated deer would come from. I had been pretty OCD about scent control, but worried it wouldn't be enough to keep me from burning a solid spot on my second day hunting like a total noob.

As I was starting to conclude that I had screwed the pooch, it started happening. First, a group of four does. They cautiously approached and basically fed into a perimeter around my stand. Then, a decent 3.5 year old six came in from the same direction. He looked around, pawed at the ground by a scrape, then quickly looked back up and trotted off... almost as if he felt like he was in someone else's territory. By this point, the does have been within 20 yards of me for probably ten minutes, and feet are starting to fall asleep from staying stone still. Right as I was about to risk a move, I saw him step into the middle of the farthest shooting lane I had at 75 yards. I couldn't see much of his antlers, but what struck me immediately was this animal's size- he absolutely dwarfed all of the dozens of other deer I had seen that weekend and had a much darker, chocolate-colored coat.

I slowly checked the does, still feeding around my stand. One was within ten yards now, but facing away, thankfully. I needed to get into a shooting position without spooking them somehow, and quickly. As I was doing this, he disappeared into another thicket. I thought he might have left the area initially, but heard him raking his antlers on the vegetation. It was obvious this was an animal that was not concerned about announcing his ownership of the place. I guessed as best I could where he was going to come out, and leveled my rifle that direction, praying silently that the does would not bust me. Somehow, they kept feeding. More rustling. More leaves crunching. A large stick snaps. Literally hearing my heart beating out of my chest. Finally, he steps out. Really big deer look to me like they have the body morphology almost of livestock. This is a large, athletic animal. I look through the scope- magnification is a little too high for this range. Whatever. Now or never. You've been shooting this rifle lights out for a year in preparation for this exact moment. Just go through your trigger squeeze sequence like always. Say a quick prayer. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze...

Shot breaks. I see him jump. The does scatter. Pretty sure I heard him crash. I climb down, and reload as quickly as possible (read: slowly and with much adrenaline-induced difficulty.) I knew it'd be a hard place to perform a track job with even the fading light I had, so I gave it five and started trailing. He was about 35 yards from the point of impact. If your hands are steady enought to take clear blood trail pics, you're doing it wrong.

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Lessons learned:

-Barnes T-EZ Muzzleloading bullets are a really badass product. I can't think of a reason to shoot anything else. Accurate, lethal, consistent.
-Big deer rarely live in places that are easy to hunt.
-Don't second guess yourself too quickly.
-Dragging a deer that is larger than you through a thick Cypress swamp is one hell of a workout.

I'm thankful for this animal, and humbled by the experience even of having seen him again. It's a day I will never forget for the rest of my life. Thanks for reading.
 

5MilesBack

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
8,697
Location
Colorado Springs
Man, I recognize that face........seen you somewhere before. Just don't plan on running for office anytime, or that politically incorrect face could cost you the election.

Nice buck!
 

AlleghenyMountain

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2019
Messages
45
Congratulations on a beautiful buck. If you're dragging through a cypress swamp, I guess we won't be bumping into each here in VA.

Sent from my SM-S727VL using Tapatalk
 
OP
OXN939

OXN939

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2018
Messages
484
Location
VA
Man, I recognize that face........seen you somewhere before. Just don't plan on running for office anytime, or that politically incorrect face could cost you the election.

Nice buck!
Look man, Virginia just needs common sense gun laws so our streets can be as safe as those of southern California. Did I mention I'm very sorry if you're a minority?

Congratulations on a beautiful buck. If you're dragging through a cypress swamp, I guess we won't be bumping into each here in VA.

Sent from my SM-S727VL using Tapatalk
No we won't, although I've been super interested to do a western VA hunt for some time. Rough Mountain Wilderness looks like a spot for some solid "type 2 fun."
 
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