I grew up in Ontario, Canada fishing every chance I could, and travelling north to deer hunt with my brothers and father when they days shortened and weather turned cold. We would join my very large extended family and rifle hunt the first week in November. While those hunts were fun times spent together and memories I will never forget, one of the best memories of deer hunting was forged by my oldest brother Rob and I on the first day of the November shotgun season in the early 2000’s.
My parents had bought a farm and had just built a new home on the property. We didn’t farm the land, but used it heavily for recreational purposes. Not knowing how deer used the property, or being the equipped hunters that we are today, we set up along a fence line that separated two overgrown fields. There was one particularly large tree on the fenceline that I climbed and stood in a large fork mid way up. No stand; just straight up climbed the tree and stood in it. Rob sat on the ground 30 yards to my south, also on the fenceline.
Rob was armed with a classic Heater Seat with an open-sight 12 gauge loaded with slugs. Nothing else. I picture him with an old oversized blaze orange jacket with burn holes in the front pocket. My father would wear it when we traveled north. This particular jacket, on this morning may be a fabrication in my mind, but I am OK with that. I climbed the tree with no firearms, a grunt tube, a doe bleat can, a small shed antler and a hammer from the workshop that would act as the second antler should I decide to rattle. Looking back, this was a setup that was bound to fail, but it didn’t.
As the sun started to lighten the field, a doe rose from her bed, urinated and grazed for a few minutes to my north. She eventually made her way east along the fenceline perpendicular to our setup and headed into the thick cedar swamp. All was quiet with exception to my occasional shuffle from the uncomfortable setup I chose. While my brother sat comfortably, I did not. But I had one thing he didn’t; a view.
After a short while a heard movement behind me, and a mature buck materialized crossing our fenceline to my north and put his nose to the matted down grass where the doe had been. He was a large bodied buck, with a heavy rack, but I had no sense of measurements, or even what constituted a trophy at that point. This was a buck, and was big. That was all that mattered.
Evidently on a mission, I grunted at him repeatedly, to which he returned the favor, but never looked in my direction, or even stopped as he followed the does trail, nose to the ground, away from our setup. Nearing where the doe entered the cedar swamp, I realized this grunting would never bring him our way, so I rifled through my pockets for the bleat call. Finding it, putting my finger on the small hole and tipping it over, the can let out an unmistakable ‘bhaaaaa’ of a doe in heat.
The buck stopped and swung his head around, staring intently in my direction.
Bhaaaaa. I tipped the can a second time.
Without hesitation, the buck turned and entered what could only be described as a hurried gallop in my direction. The first 50 yards are still a blur to me, but I distinctly remember him making his way under my tree and directly towards Rob. I could see the steam from his breath rushing out of his nostrils. Drool fell from his lips; evidence that this particular buck, was not just starting to chase. His heavy gallop passed my stand quickly, and not having breathed for what felt like minutes, my breath was held further by my growing awareness that this deer was close to Rob, and he wasn’t shooting. This deer was headed straight for Rob and was now within 30 yards. 20. 10… Bang! The buck dropped, barrel rolled and then headed for Rob again. Bang!
This time he was down for good.
I may have climbed down the tree. I may have just jumped. I could have landed on my face and wouldn’t have felt a thing. My body was pumping with adrenaline, so I ran to where Rob had been sitting, but by this time, he was closing the very small distance between his seat and the downed buck, still nervous that it would get up. It didn’t move.
We stood there for a moment staring at our trophy in disbelief. Rob getting his first real good look at the bucks antlers, turned to me with a baffled look… “Where did he come from?!” Apparently Rob had not seen the doe or the buck, and was starting to consider the comforts a hot shower and a cup of coffee when he heard the buck coming straight toward him.
“I paced 9 yards! If I didn’t shoot him he was going to run me over!”
The victory hugs and antler ogling ensued along with a post-game recap of what Rob had missed leading up to what can only be considered the fastest turn of events he will ever experience.
The buck was a short-tined mainframe 8 with one small g4 on the left side, making him a 9 pointer. While the rack was modest, the body was massive, field dressing at 230lb. All measurements aside, this was an absolutely amazing morning that would contribute not only to the solidification of a passion in the heart of a young hunter, but also the bonding of two brothers separated by 9 years of age. That my friends, is what its all about.