- June 29, 2022
I was sick. I wasn’t suffering from nausea or some variety of the flu, instead it was that knot in the pit of your stomach you get when something has happened that twists your mind all up with negative thoughts and you just can’t stop thinking about it. I cursed myself for having missed the
I was sick. I wasn’t suffering from nausea or some variety of the flu, instead it was that knot in the pit of your stomach you get when something has happened that twists your mind all up with negative thoughts and you just can’t stop thinking about it. I cursed myself for having missed the shot at a buck-of-a-lifetime and I relived the event over and over, never being satisfied with the ending.
It was early morning when I took a crack at the big buck standing in an opening in the laurel patch. There was absolutely no sign that the deer had been hit, but I tracked it in the dried leaves for a good distance, and then walked a zigzag pattern for hours hoping to find some evidence that my aim had been true and the bullet had reached the deer. The more I thought about it, the more apparent it became that the bullet had deflected on its way to the target.
For the rest of the day, I remained in the area where I had taken the shot, hoping that the raucous call of a crow or raven or the yipping of a coyote would signal that they had found the deer, but that signal never came. For the next two days I hiked back to that same spot at dawn and stayed until dark, with dwindling hopes that I would ever see him again. Nonetheless, I had made up my mind that I would not shoot at another buck, but would hold out for him – even though the chances were slim that he had remained in the area after being shot at.
On the third day, I was unable to hunt, and on the fourth, heavy rains fell throughout the entire day. It was good that the location had been left alone for a couple of days and after the all-day rain and clearing skies throughout the night, the deer would no doubt be up and feeding in the morning. Perhaps – and it was a long shot – the 11-pointer might have returned to his old bedding area and feeding grounds.
This time I arrived before daybreak carrying my.330 Weatherby Magnum, using 180-grain Barnes-X bullets! If I was lucky enough to cross paths with that buck again, I wanted a cartridge that would make it through some brush if need be.
It was well past dawn when I heard movement in the leaves and sighted a doe and her two yearlings emerging from the laurel, heading out to feed on the fallen acorns. She seemed nervous, and it wasn’t long until she picked up my scent and went scurrying out of sight, followed by her two offspring. A long 30 minutes went by until, from the opposite direction, a flash of brown passed through a patch of black birch saplings and laurel 100 yards down the hillside. I readied my rifle as two young deer slowly emerged and fed toward me, picking up the occasional acorn as they reached within 50 yards of my position. Several times, the second of the two glanced back toward where they had come from – sometimes indicating that more deer would follow. Fifteen minutes later, another deer appeared moving cautiously through the brush toward the yearlings.
My back stiffened when I saw the flash of antler, and then I gasped when I realized it was the 11-pointer. He walked normally, cautiously nearing the opening the yearlings had reached. It really was him! I couldn’t believe I was seeing him for a second time!
The crosshairs settled just behind his shoulder as he reached the clearing and I very gently squeezed the trigger. I watched in astonishment as the buck crumbled dead in his tracks! Gathering my footing, I raced to the deer as he lay motionless. I stood near him in amazement. He truly was a magnificent buck – the largest I had ever taken in Pennsylvania, both in body size and antler mass. He was a 140-class buck that weighed in excess of 190 pounds!
Fortunately, I was able to solicit the aid of two friends in field dressing and moving the deer – it was not easy, even for three of us, to load the big buck into the bed of my UTV. After skinning and removing the head for mounting, the remainder of the deer went to a butcher for processing, where it took 3 grown men to lift his large carcass onto the meat hook!
A deer-hunting season does not always end like this, but the redemption that came on that cool crisp morning on a remote Pennsylvania hilltop is a story I will relive for years to come!