The following morning saw us hunting with another buddy along the Haw River in a section of the Jordan gamelands. There wasn't much action atop my hardwood ridge until about 10 a.m. when two came trotting by me, skirting the hillside. Didn't even raise the gun as they never slowed down or came through an opening. That afternoon we decided head to another spot on Jordan, one that Chris had hunted in before. Chris and I headed down a drainage about a half-mile from the road and out towards the lake, in the area he had actually walked through a few weeks prior. I set him up in a prime spot, hardwoods surrounded by small thickets, and off I went about 200 yards out from him. After passing numerous rubs along the way, I set up next to the lake in a small opening also surrounded by some thick stuff, in particular a holly thicket to my North. After 20 minutes of sawing and having to use a tie down to physically nudge a beech tree off the oak I was set-up in, I settled in for the evening 10 feet off the ground in my perfectly hidden little spot. While I watched squirrels and birds play in the woods and fish jump in the lake, a shot rang out behind me around 3:30. My immediate thought was "Chris has finally shot a deer!" I can't tell you how excited I was as I have been trying to put him on deer the past 3 years while also giving him advice whenever he hits the woods alone; I just knew it had all finally paid off. I immediately call him and the first thing he says is "I think I missed her", followed by "I see another one, bye". After patiently waiting 5 more minutes, he calls me back and I ask him about her reaction, if he heard a crash, etc. He didn't, so I tell him to wait until 5 p.m. to climb down and look for blood since it was still early and they were moving out by him.
5 p.m. comes and I am in lala land hoping that he is finding blood when I suddenly hear and see a big, dark bodied deer running my way. I thought I saw horns, not wide but tall, but it was really hard to tell with all the small saplings between me and the deer. Before it hit the opening at me, the deer veered off and headed straight to that holly thicket before stopping. I grunted and even snort-weezed to try and bring it out to no avail. With Chris and I finding no blood nor hair and telling me "She ran, stopped, looked back at me, then ran off up the hill", we came to the conclusion that it was a clean miss and he must have hit a branch or one of the two trees he was trying to squeeze the bullet between. While not the best shot decision, he did make the ethical decision to not take a head on shot, which was very good to hear. After discussing the situation, we decided to leave the stands in overnight, planning to hunt that particular area again the next morning.
Fast forward to Saturday December 4th. Sunrise came and went with us not waking up, so after a really late start, we got in the woods and setup at noon: Me at the same spot as before and Chris up the ridge about 50 yards from where he was the previous afternoon. Being a bit of a weather nerd, I knew there was a chance of a little wintry mix that day, I just didn't think it would amount to much. Well around 2 p.m. the snow and sleet started up; at one point in time it was snowing so hard I could barely see the opposite lake shore which was only 250-300 yards away. Birds were active but that was it over our way. Our buddy who we hunted with the day before, however, had managed to see deer left and right over at the Haw River and harvested a cowhorn. By 4 p.m., there was a dusting of snow and sleet on the ground but everything switched over to an on and off rain/drizzle, soaking me in melted snow. I texted Chris that "I am cold and wet, but we are toughing it out this remaining hour and a half" and let me tell you, I am glad I did!
Around 4:30, I took a look out towards the holly thicket mentioned earlier and saw movement. Then legs. Then a whole body. The deer is real light colored and I ease up the gun. Just like I thought, my scope was fogged up but I could still see through it enough to tell it was a doe (and that was tough to see at that distance). With nothing dry to wipe it off with, I knew I was going to have to get a deer in close to take a shot, which I needed anyway since the furthest I could possibly shoot was 50 yards. I continued to look towards the thicket and see another, darker colored deer before finally seeing yet another large, dark colored deer step out into a large opening beside the other two. I immediately thought "That is the deer from yesterday!". As I was saying that to myself, the deer picks its head up and I saw horns, good ones at that. To say I was praying for them to work my way is an understatement. With my attention fully on him now, I watched this buck feed his way right to me. Every now and again he'd stop and look my way while I was trying not to shake from the cold. Oh, let me stop right here and mention that I had taken off my wet gloves to try warm my hands next to my body. Ever hold a cold, wet gun bare-handed in 30 degree weather and try to keep steady while the biggest buck you have seen while hunting is standing a mere 50 yards away? Yea, that was a moment of mind over a matter.
As this buck came closer, I noticed the doe was directly in front of me, so I eased the gun around in the direction he was in while making sure to not get caught. At 20 yards, he stopped under a large holly tree that was beside me. "5 more feet, just 5 more feet is all I need". Nope, he turned around, but headed straight towards another opening. Foggy scope and all, once he hit it and stopped, I put a 150-grain Remington Corelokt right through both lower shoulders and his heart. The beautiful 10-point dropped like a rock, the other deer scattered a little ways and I was shaking like a leaf from a combination of the cold and my largest buck laying dead 20 yards from me. As I called Chris, the other deer eased around in front of me, so I tell him they are headed for his general direction. Not that it matters much, but the other dark deer turned out to be a spike for those of you wanting to know. Unfortunately, they do not head his way. After trying to calm down and calling Paul to tell him to get our processing stuff ready as well as my mom to spread the good news, I tried to stay in the stand 15 minutes. I promise, I really did. But I couldn't take it, after about 5 minutes I said to myself "Whatever, I have to get down, get warm and grab those antlers!" I like to think that I set a new world record climbing down that tree and literally running to my buck. As the heavy sleet and snow commenced again, I just had this huge smile knowing that my plan for that weekend had come together.