Saturday, December 4, 2010

Elbow Deep In Whitetail - not a fish tail :)

We're one week into the regular Whitetail season here in PA and so far I've had some darn good luck.

Monday was opening day. My uncle has some property attached to his house near here so this is where the family usually hunts (indoor plumbing is nice too.) I got there at about 6am. I don't like tromping through the fields and woods when I can't see jack, so my custom is to sit and drink a cup of coffee while waiting for my dad, whose custom it is to be late.

He gets there at about 6:30am and we suit up and head out. My uncle's property is on the side of a mountain and my dad for many years has placed his stand about 300 yards down from the ridge. The deer love to crest the ridge, run down literally right under his tree stand and then find themselves dead.

My stand this year was downslope from him and a ridge over, just inside of a large thicket of saplings. I get any of the one's he misses as well as any that cross over from the other side of the valley (which is fairly narrow at this point.)

We part ways and I slowly work my way down. This is the first year I have this stand here, and my bearings are a little off as I work through the thicket. I emerge from the thicker and start to look for my stand. I walk out on the point of the ridge a little, and something causes me to look up and to my left. There stand my dad, in his stand. I'm wayyyy off. Damn it.

I try to wave non-chalantly as I grumble and decide to head around the thicket.

I get to my stand about 7:10 and climb up. Now, I'm not a big fan of heights and the stand is 12. In all honesty, this is my first year using a stand. I hunted a few years as a kid, but due to PA's goofy (in my opinion) hunting laws at the time, I never got anything. At the time, PA had a designated Buck season and then after that had a designated Doe season. So I always had the fortune of only seeing Doe during Buck season and vice versa.

So at 15 years old, being cold and bored was not my thing.  I started hunting again last year and was lucky enough to get a Doe that was almost the size of a large dog. This year I was hoping to push that, maybe a Doe the size of a scrawny calf, or undersized horse. If I could dare to dream.....

I plopped myself on the platform of the stand with my 30/30 in one hand and my overstuffed backpack in the other. I juggle these as I screw in my nifty hook into the tree so that I can hang my stuff. It is then that I realize that I can hang the pack or the gun, not both. I think about just dropping the pack, but decide to hang that and hold the gun across my lap, even though it's blocking a bit of my uphill view.

I bounce around a few times and find a spot that's a little comfortable. No sooner am I done this, than I hear a rustling to my left. I look and, sneaking through the thicket, is a deer. A few moments later I saw that it's a buck, and it has two beautiful tines on each antler.

Now PA had updated it's silly old laws with a sillier new law. There was no more designated seasons (which is very good!) but, in order for a Buck to be legal, it had to have 3 tines on one side that were at least 1 inch long.

I look again and still only see two tines on each side, all looking as long as my fingers. Luckily he was heading straight towards my stand, so I decided to wait and watch him as he approached. But if this deer gets here and turns out to be illegal, I swear to God I'm dropping out of this tree and snapping it's neck like Steven Segal.

So I continue to watch and about 15-20 yards out, it turns it's head in a way so that I see a third tine, Jackpot!! I bring my gun over and up (as I'm left handed) but the way I'm sitting I can't get the shot. I try to switch to my right shoulder, momentarily thinking I'm the Tiger Woods of hunting. Remembering that I'm not I go to switch back to my left and it spots me.

The Buck does it's weird head bobbing, I-saw-something-but-not-sure-what move and I freeze, gun held over my head like a GI Joe. I stare in it's eyes as it stares into mine and I barely dare to breath. There was something that it didn't like in my eyes, because it turns and hops off. I quickly shift the gun and my rump so that I can take a shot.

And just like that it stops.

It's behind a few trees. It takes a few steps and all I can see are it's vitals between two trees. The clearing between the trees might be 1 foot, if I'm lucky. And.... oh yea, did I mention I'm using open sights? Because I am. It was my grandfather's 30/30 before he passed away, and he didn't need no sissy scope. And I just never got around to getting one this year. Kinda regretting that about now.

I line up the shot on the vitals and give the trigger a squeeze.

The crack echoes through the woods and almost simultaneously the deer drops and flails as it rolls downhill. I wait a moment. Then another. The deer doesn't move.

I scramble down the stand's ladder and as soon as my feet crunch on the dried leaves of the forest floor, the deer snaps it's head up.

You have got to be kidding me.....

The deer turns and starts to crawl away with it's front legs, the rear now being useless.

Now I'm a one shot kind of guy, only because I hate to see the animal suffer. I quickly scramble closer a few yards until I get a clear shot and put one in it's vitals.

Adrenaline pumping, I walk over and see not five but six points on it's brow. And the deer is a lot bigger than it looks.

I called my dad over and in no time we have it field dressed and tied to the dragging harness. "I'd put that deer at about 5-6 years old and 130 lbs," my dad says.

That is when I begin my 1 mile, up hill trek pack to his truck (since I don't think a deer in a mini van is a good idea.)

Long story short, 2 hours later I'm finally flopping the carcass on the bed of the truck and gratefully taking an early lunch break.  While eating I hear a few shots from the direction of my dad's stand. I call him about 20 minutes later and he's landed a 5 pointer.

I hike back downhill and give him a hand with his.

I've been back out on Tuesday morning and all day today, but all I saw was another buck. I have two Doe tags to fill, but I think that if I get another one, I will count myself blessed.

So this past week I've been either shooting, dragging or butchering deer so there has been little time for fishing. But I think that I'll slip out this week and try a few spots that I've been itching to get back to since Spring. I still have yet to get something on my Sila Flex, and I haven't touched my 2wt since early Summer......

This winter is going to be a long one... :)


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