I had one lone goal in the 2014 season and that was to finally get a harvest on video. I had been trying for 3 years prior and just was not able to seal the deal so to speak even though I kept getting closer and closer (I actually videoed Paul from the tree while he sneaked up on and shot a button buck we had come in and lay down, but it just looks like he is shooting at the ground in it). But that all changed in a matter of 2 hours, if that, into my first hunt last year. Watch it for yourself and I hope you enjoy!
A Season of Missed Opportunities - A Story About Disappearing and Taking Care of Others' Unfinished Business
As November continued on, the "fun" was just beginning to for me. The weekend after my small unloaded gun failure, Paul and I found ourselves perched 25-feet up a pine tree on section of Alcoa gamelands in Rowan County, NC. Muzzleloaders in hand and me running the camera as well, we sat that still morning hearing duck hunters break the silence as daylight slowly crept over the trees. The occasional muzzleloader shot rang out as well, putting that feeling that "it could happen any time now" in us. And it did, just as heavy fog rolled in.
Instead of doing a month by month recap of my hunting season after early October I've decided to highlight the small failures I encountered on the way to today, the day after Christmas, as I prepare for my final hunting trip of the year that starts this afternoon. All in all this has been a freezer-filling year for me, being blessed with 3 does and a spike (that I thought was a doe actually) and seeing 27 deer to date, making for one of this public land hunter's best seasons ever. But along the way I ran into missed opportunities that I would love to have back, with none more so than the one that happened last Thursday. First, however, we must start in October.
Cory and I decided to hunt Butner game lands with two other buddies of ours for the opening day of the Eastern NC Muzzleloader season. We had about an hour drive from my place in Burlington, NC to Falls Lake so we left the apartment around 4:30 a.m. and planned to meet up with the other guys around 5:45 to start heading into our spots. It was a cool morning in the upper 40's to low 50's. The cooler temperature had me excited for a couple of reasons: first, I would hopefully not be covered in sweat after the walk in to our stand location and, second, I had high hopes that it would have the deer up and moving around in the morning.
Prepared for battle!
I set off October 11th for Raleigh to hunt the NC Eastern Zone with my muzzleloader. I got a taste of it when I hunted the morning of the 9th in the Western Zone up at South Mountains Gamelands in Rutherford County and was ready to get to a more familiar place with a better deer population. I had made up my mind the night before that I would hunt where I shot a 9 point on Butner-Falls of Nuese Gamelands back in 2009 so when I saw a small buck laying in the ditch not far from the parking area I knew they had been moving and felt good about my chances.
View of the oak plateau I hunted on Friday
As Paul wrote the other week, deer season is now open in NC, with archery opening mid-September and the Eastern muzzleloader season opening this past Saturday and the Western one opening today. With it being the 1st of October, most other states have opened at least one of their seasons as well so I hope everyone is being safe while pursuing those whitetail that we love so much (or mulies, blacktails, pronghorn, elk, etc.). I know it's a little - ok, wayyyyyy - late getting this hunting recap up but hurried housework before I left for and work up here in Southwestern Indiana has kept me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. None-the-less, I wanted to let you guys know how my first hunts of the 2012 season went.
I was able to get out for the last weekend of the Central muzzleloader season here in NC on Saturday. I hunted a spot where I had success with the bow last year, waking up to some great cold morning weather with a temperature of about 37 degrees! I arrived to the parking area and found one other guy who was hunting with his bow and had a quick conversation with him to see where he planned to hunt. Quick piece of advice: It's always a good idea to do this so that you don't hunt too closely to someone else and you especially need to know where everyone is, if possible, when on public land.
I got to my stand location at around 7 a.m. and settled into my tree as the sun was rising! The sun came up and the birds started to chirp...but no deer! I heard a few shots in the distance and by noon I had not heard much action for a couple of hours, so I packed it up for the day; but hey, a day in the woods is better than a day in the office! Even though I did not get a shot or even see a deer, it was still a very enjoyable morning. Especially since I find sitting in a tree one of the most relaxing things I do!
Note: This was written way back in fresman year of high school, as you will be able to tell. I would just like to say that it got me an A-! Hey, gotta brag a little...
"Beep, beep, beep, bee..." That's how my morning started out one early November day. It was the day after Thanksgiving, a historic day for me. As I woke up, I felt a brisk chill to the cool Fall air. "What a perfect day for deer hunting." I said to myself.
As I got up, so did my dad, grandpa and our friend Matt. I felt so tired when I had awakened that I did not even feel hungry. So, after I skipped breakfast, I put on my hunting clothes and, after waiting on my guardians, off we went. As we headed towards public land in Lancaster County, South Carolina, my dad asked, "Are you finally gonna' kill one?" I replied with, "Yeah, and it's going to be a big buck!" "Well, I hope you sure do." said my grandpa. After our little conversation, we reached our destination and got our hunting gear together.
As we started down the long road bed towards the cut-off, we joined Matt, who had gotten there before us, and started talking. "Where are you going to hunt?" my dad asked Matt. "I think I'll hunt in that gully where I've seen deer before." replied Matt. "Where are you going to put Cory?" asked my grandpa. "I think I'll put him in a pine near the road, while I'll be on the other side of him down in the gully below there towards the thick pines." my dad said. As we kept on walking, Matt broke off and I asked my grandpa where he was going to hunt that morning. He said that he was going to hunt the creek bottom below me in the thick pines. When we had finally gotten to my tree, I was exhausted. After I climbed the tree and got everything situated, I settled in and started waiting.
At about 7:09 or 7:10 a.m., I got cold, so I put on my blaze orange toboggan. About two minutes after I put it on, I noticed a deer coming straight at me from the cut-off. I also noticed that it was a buck! When he was within 50 or 60 yards from me, I found a hole to shoot through. Kablaam! A shot rang out from my .243 over the morning silence. He ran about 20 more yards and a final shot put him down for good. There he lay beside my tree after a 10 or 20 yard run. Needless to say, I was shaking all over from the excitement!
As I looked down at him, I knew I had accomplished a great feat. After all the shaking, I said to myself, "Wow, what a deer!" Right after I said that, at 7:30, another deer came through. This deer was an even BIGGER buck, but somehow I managed to stay cool. When he cut down a different fork of the same trail the other deer had taken, Kablaam! I shot him. Kablaam! Another shot rang out! After that, I realized I was out of bullets. All while he was laying in the cut-off, a mere 50 yards from me, bleeding from his side and sucking air! As I tried to reload, he got to his feet and trotted off right as I was taking aim. To say I was mad is an understatement!
At 10:00 a.m., my dad came. "Did you get that big buck?" he asked excitedly. "I don't know. I shot him though." I replied. "Well, did you get anything else?" he yelled from below me. "Yeah, I think it's a three or five pointer." I said. "Well, where's he at?" I pointed right beside him. To me, it seemed like my dad was the happiest out of the two of us.
While he gutted the deer, Matt and I looked for the other deer. To make a long story short, the bigger buck was never found after hours of searching. Even though I was upset that we weren't able to find the other deer, I still was glad to have gotten my five pointer. Yet it makes me sad to think that many anti-hunting activists would like to take this joy away from me and others.
So early December last year (2010), I decided to hit the road and head from Charlotte, NC up to the state capitol - Raleigh for those of you in Faison - to enjoy a weekend of hunting the gamelands around town. I had to make the most out of being unemployed during hunting season the past few years, so hunting trips were my little way of relaxing. I met my buddy (and soon to be Inside Out team member) Chris at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday December 2nd and off we went to Butner-Falls of Neuse gamelands. Sneaking into a spot I scouted back in college, eventually we string up in a drainage not far from the road. I figured this little patch of land received little pressure during the year and I knew we were hunting in a spot most people would pass-by. After an afternoon of being surrounded by turkeys and squirrels, I had two does come under me right before legal shooting time ended. No horns equals no shooting for me that day since it wasn't either-sex there yet, but it did make me feel confident that I was putting us in good spots already.
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.
As you know from my blog post Saturday night, we were out stomping around a section of the Butner-Falls of Neuse that morning and I decided to take advantage of us putting some miles on our boots to get some video with my Go Pro. So without further ado, here is our first short video for the year.
Sometimes the great ideas that we have just need something to bring them to the forefront. The Inside Out team will be putting our talents to work and sharing our knowledge and love of the outdoors with anyone who wants to listen.
Curran's Outdoor Adventures
GoBlog (Get Outdoors)
Grants Blog (Growing Deer TV)
Hunt Like Your Hungry
inFOCUS (Campbell Cameras)
inMotion (Heartland Bowhunter)
Make It Happen Outdoors
Taking a Walk on the Wild Side
The Rivah Blog
The Will to Hunt
Wired to Hunt