Back in South River for my second gun hunt, the only success we had was when I was the lucky one appointed to dog the bush. It was our last day, and I was determined to get something. I didn’t have to make a sound from my mouth, the crunching leaves and twigs would be enough to warn anything in the area that I was on a warpath. I tacked through that bush, up to the tallest ridge, back down to the lake, back and forth, making sure I took a peak behind every hiding spot I found.
It didn’t take me long before I saw tracks, big tracks. I followed them for a bit, got a feel for which way he was heading, and I cut off from them, doing my best to make sure he didn’t double back. I am still relatively inexperienced, and I still have a hard time picking up a deer in the bush, so my goal was to push him forward, and make sure he didn’t get behind me. I got real excited when I saw a huge pile of droppings that were currently melting the snow. I’d seen piles before, but this was among the largest, and freshest! I had serious tunnel vision now, and at the end of the tunnel, there was a big buck staring at me, but in true hunting fashion, I couldn’t see him yet.
This game of hide and go seek continued for another couple hours. I’d slowly make my way up a hill, look for him, and keep moving on a diagonal across the rough terrain. I saw his tracks a couple more times, along with others, but they were keeping their distance from me. I got to watch point A, and still, neither of us had spotted anything. Our plan was to dog together, over to watch point B. So we did just that.
It had been a while since I saw the tracks I was trying to follow earlier in the day, feeling a little defeated, I had an apple, and started to walk in straighter lines. Now that I was dogging with another person, I was trying to keep my distance, but not get too far. After about 45 min, I was starting to feel disoriented, so as opposed to walking further into the bush, and ruining the hunt, I stopped and yelled a few times, hoping to hear someone holler back at me. After I heard nothing, I picked a tree in a marsh, selected a piece of dangling bark as a target, and decided to act as a catalyst, and help it make its way to the ground. I’d been walking too long, and hunting the whole week, and this is the best excuse I had to take a shot.
With the mic’s back on, I got my directions, and I put my back to the sun, and started my way back to the group. Somehow, on my way back, I jumped two bucks! They both turned their backs to me, and started running. Again, I didn’t have a shot, but I took a couple off the mark, aiming about 4 ft. to their left, more of an excuse to shoot. There is no way I am walking through the bush for five hours and not taking a shot when I finally track down my subjects. Perhaps I shouldn’t have shot at all, knowing that if I missed my mark (the ground to the left of the bucks), I would have wounded the animals, or ruined our meat, but I was confident my decision would be consequence free. Zoned in, I spotted their path out, put my sights in the small clearing, and shot as soon as I saw the first buck pass through, and the rush was over.
I started to walk to where they were bedded, and remembered that I should stay exactly where I shot from, and went back to my casings, and waited until Manny, our lead showed up. When he saw me, we started yelling back and forth, I told him what happened, and he went to go take a look for blood, I let him know the only chance for blood would be up on the ridge, about 120 yards from where I was originally standing. He looped around, not following the tracks of the buck, poked his head up over the hill, saw the buck looking back on his tracks, and took the fatal shot.
He was a monster! My long shot actually took off his antler, enough to startle him, and make him wonder, ‘What the hell happened’? That was my first successful stock, and there is no better feeling. I take more pride in this buck that won’t be hanging on my wall, but Manny’s, than my first buck ever, which I got with my bow, not two weeks earlier. In my young hunting career, I can already tell that it’s going to be a good one, and that there isn’t much in life that I enjoy more.
If you have a story like mine, or completely different, please share it, I would love to hear about it.
Happy Hunting Y’all!