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.
It was the morning of October 19th, and I was hunting the one farm that I have permission to hunt in Goldsboro, North Carolina. I was hunting with my CVA Accura muzzle loader as I did most of last year and was sitting in the same stand that I harvested a spike and doe from last year. After a rainy ride to Goldsboro, the skies had cleared up as I arrived at the farm and I made the short walk to the stand. At first light I watched a raccoon playing in the cut corn field, making a whole mess of racket for about 10 minutes when it finally retreated to the hedge row.
About 10 minutes later I heard some splashing in the corn field behind me and after a quick glance I could see it was a deer rounding the corner of the field. I quietly got up and turned around so that I could get a shot if one presented itself to me. At this point I did not know if it was a buck or a doe until it stopped in a clearing on the edge of the field about 30-40 yards away from me, facing me. At this time I could see that this was a good-sized buck but I did not focus on the antlers; I knew I would take a shot if I could get one so I turned my focus to my Nikon 3-9 power scope. The deer was standing directly on a game trail that had been used heavily - the same trail the doe used last year when I shot her. There is a 6 to 8-foot drainage ditch all the way around the field and the deer favor this one area to jump the ditch and head into the woods where my stand is located. The buck was still facing me just feeding in the field, but he kept looking over to the hedge row where the raccoon was. I believe the raccoon was still over there making some noise and it was making the buck uneasy. I decided that I needed to take the shot now or I might not have another chance. It was a strong quartering towards shot and when the buck put his head down I placed the cross hairs on the front shoulder and pulled the trigger.
After the shot I pulled the CVA down quickly as the smoke blew by and all I saw was the white of the buck's belly roll in to the ditch. I waited and listened and I didn't hear anything. I MUST HAVE DROPPED HIM!! I reloaded my muzzle loader and climbed down the tree after about 10-15 minutes (and some excited text messaging!). I quietly and slowly walked to the edge of the ditch and there he was! A beautiful 9pt buck weighting at my estimate about 150-160 lbs gross weight. Now the work begins.....he was at the bottom of a muddy drainage ditch and I was hunting alone. I can only imagine the laughs someone got if they were watching me try to pull this buck out of the ditch into the field!! Needless to say I used a few choice words before finally getting him into the field where I could drag him into the woods to field dress him. It was a lot of work but well worth it!
This buck must have been fighting another buck last year as his left ear was split right up the middle and had healed over. It was not fresh from this year but must have happened last year. It was something I had never seen before. After some picture taking I got the game cart and got him into the truck. I decided that I would mount him and I choose Avery Taxidermy to do the job for me. The work I've seen of his looks great and when I first moved here I did some research and his was the name I had bookmarked for just this!
Not every day hunting is a day we'll shoot a big buck like this but when those days do come it is very exciting. I can't wait to see the mount when it is finished to cherish the memories of this hunt for years to come. Not to mention my freezer is looking much less empty now that I have lots of fresh venison in it which is the primary reason I hunt! The fact that this was a trophy buck was just icing on the cake!
I've added all the pictures below as well as in our gallery.
So I dropped the cash on a non-resident South Carolina hunting license this year so I could hunt with my dad and grandfather. Weekends in August and September were spend scouting in preparation for the first weekend in October. I had already been hunting a few Saturdays in September once North Carolina's archery season opened as well as the Eastern muzzleloader opener Paul posted a few weeks ago. But nothing beats October and the changing fall colors in brings to the deer woods and that first weekend of muzzleloader season in the Upstate of SC was what I had been waiting for. Friday the 4th found us hunting a strip of oaks running between pines and a clearcut on Sumter National Forest land in Laurens County, both in the morning and evening.
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.
The first two full weeks of North Carolina's Archery season are in the books and we have been fortunate enough to spend a couple days in the woods. No deer yet but lots of valuable information has been gained on this particular piece of public land we are hunting.
I decided this year to do an interesting second-camera angle by doing time-lapses with my Go Pro. Of course opening day found me with cameras recording and below is the first result of my video experiment. Enjoy!
Labor Day morning, Cory and I headed over to the Alcoa gameland for the opening day of the North Carolina Dove season. We have been scouting this area for deer hunting quite a bit during the off season so we decided to setup at first light near the power line clear cut to see if we could catch the morning flight of doves. Not long after we had setup we had a dove fly over us that caught us by total surprise. We saw a few others on the power lines but nothing that flew to us and decided to take a walk around and see if we could jump any on the new logging roads; we did but no shots were taken. On our way back to where we had our gear set I flushed one dove out ahead of us and took a shot but did not connect. Although we did not leave with any doves for dinner we used a good part of the day to scout for deer and are now very comfortable in the area and we do believe we will take some deer as the season progresses. All in all it was a great day out and it beat sitting in the office! Now hopefully our scouting endeavors pay off in the coming weeks. Be sure to keep an eye out for many new posts coming!
P.S. - We would love to hear from our readers how they did on dove this year, so feel free to share your stories with us!
North Carolinian hunters start pursuing deer today in the Eastern, Central and Northwestern zones as the 2013 Archery season has opened up in those zones, with the Western zone opening up on Monday. I'll be heading out for my first hunt of the year this afternoon, off to a Central zone gameland you've heard me mention many times before known as Alcoa. I just finished getting all the final details put together in the previous few days so I can just grab my stuff and go when I pull up to the parking area, so bear with me in the following video as I go over what I pack into the woods. Enjoy!
This Spring and Summer saw me going through my hunting clothes and equipment and selling a bunch of stuff to downsize on things, upgrade some items and pass on little used items to someone that would actually put them to use. My initial plan was to just upgrade some video equipment, so I sold my camera arm and one of my fluid heads. I've got a Muddy Outfitter Arm (review coming sometime during the season) waiting to be delivered at the moment so that portion of the initial plan is coming to fruition, however I have yet to find a deal on a fluid head I want so the one 701 HDV I kept will be pulling double duty on the camera arm and tripod this year. I also decided to hold-off on getting a portable voice recorder like the Zoom H1 to use for recording audio when using my Go Pro or Canon G15, unless there is a deal I just can't pass up. Unfortunately for my bank account and much to the dismay of my wife, that initial video equipment upgrade turned into an overhaul of my hunting clothing and storage for my gear. Camofire and Cabela's Bargain Cave have been my friend this pre-season as I have bought lightweight mesh pants, merino wool and liner socks, hats and a quarter-zip while updating my camo clothing. On the storage side of things, I snagged two Badlands Camera Cases to better organize my equipment and make it easier carrying it into the woods as I can now not be bothered with stuffing my larger camcorder case into my Eberlestock. Instead, I can either carry it around my waist like a fanny pack, strap it to my pack at one of the many lashing points or even slide the slimmer camera case into one of the side tubes on my pack. The design of the case also will make getting setup after I have the camera arm in place much easier on me. I also purchased a Badlands Adder duffel bag. It's made out of a PVC material (which is taking me a while to clear the distinctive smell out of it) so I can throw it in the back of my truck and not worry too much about the elements to and from where I will be hunting. This will also help keep the clothing and/or gear I store in it relatively free from outside odors. I'm sure I'll snag another item or two during season, possibly another PVC duffel so I can stop using the big plastic containers to store my hunting items in since they take up so much space in the man cave's closet. If I do, expect some reviews. Til then, remember to stay safe while out there enjoying the great outdoors!
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Taking a Walk on the Wild Side
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