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LOH Story: Highs and Lows

LOH Story #1

Submitted by Matt Barrett 

A cold, windy Sunday afternoon in 2011, Kent and I sat together in my favorite stand facing east over a strip of farm land.  The strip, about 100 yards straight across, is lined with woods on both sides; heavy on the west, where we sat, and lighter on the east.  We hunted together not because we had to, there were plenty of other stands, but because life had taken us in different directions and time together had become scarce.

This deer season Sunday went just like all the others.  Post in the morning, head to church, breakfast for anyone wearing blaze orange, hear the good reverends message, and then back into the field.  We got out around 1:30 and settled in.  Me on the left, Kent on the right.  We sat and talked (quietly, of course) about life, memories, and the “good old days” when we were both convinced we were headed for the NBA. 

As we reminisced and shared stories, we were reminded why we were sitting in a wooden box 15 feet in the air.  300 yards south of us a doe and two fawns came out of the far side of the woods and, in a hurry, crossed the field.  Ever experienced hunters, we knew enough for this to spike our adrenaline.  I got my .243 up and ready.  Like it was written in a book, 10 seconds later he stepped out.  And he’s definitely a shooter.

Curiously, he did not cross the field.  Instead, he stayed on the far tree line and started walking north; in our direction.  I watched him in my crosshairs as he quickly covered the ground.  At 150 yards we made a few grunts to try and stop him to no avail.  We decided to give a “hey, deer!” shout but he wasn’t interested.  Whether he didn’t hear us or didn’t care, he continued to clip along.  He reaches the spot directly across the field from our stand; 100 yards away, broadside.  Kent says “Matt, he’s horny…he’s not stopping!” 

Confident in my shot, I squeezed the trigger.  We see all the things a hunter wants to see…his front legs buckle, his tail tucks…it was a good hit.  With a hop, he’s back in the woods and out of sight.  The adrenaline still pumping, I look over at Kent to get the official hunters “we did it!” high-five.  Over his shoulder I see him…the second buck.

Not 30 seconds after my shot he pops out from the same trail mine had.  In a heartbeat we were out of “celebration mode” and back into “hunting mode”.  Mine was clearly a shooter…this one is a wall-hanger.  Instead of crossing the field like the doe or hugging the woods like my buck, this one walked dead for us (see what I did there?).  Because of where Kent is in the stand and the line the buck is on it’s quickly clear this is going to have to be a straight on shot.  Not ideal but doable for an experienced hunter.  I sat quietly for what seemed like minutes, but was really only a few seconds, and waited…finally the .270 cracked off.  He didn’t take another step.  One dead buck in the middle of the field, another just in the woods.  Elated, we jumped up, hugged, high-fived, and reveled in what had just happened.  Two big bucks in less than a minute. 

We collected our gear and climbed down, ready to go claim our trophies.  First stop; Kent’s.  Beautiful.  Heavy mass, eight long, balanced tines, 19-inch spread…just beautiful.  Next stop; Matt’s.  We head over to where the buck was when I took him.  No blood.

We combed back and forth on the edge of the woods, searching for any drop of blood.  Nothing.  We slowly moved in where he entered the woods, eyes scanning for any sign.  Nothing.  I crossed the field and climbed back in the stand to make sure we were in the right area.  We were.

We backed out and called those in our hunting party who’d filled out to come give us a hand.  We started by searching the area we saw him jump in.  No deer.  Because it’s not a terribly thick woods we decide to spread out and walk the whole thing, zig-zagging back and forth, hoping to stumble on him.  No luck.  5 hours spent Sunday, well past dark, looking for my buck.  No deer. 

We headed back Monday morning and started the search again.  We looked, looked, and looked some more.  It felt like we covered every inch of each of the 300 acres.  Finally, after searching all day Monday without so much as a drop of blood, we call it…our double is now a single. 

My best guess is I hit him a little high.  This still produces a hard hit but doesn’t always lead to a good trail.  I had taken many deer, and some nice bucks, with that .243, so I know it wasn’t the gun…but I couldn’t help feeling that if I had used a larger caliber it may have turned out differently. 

Whatever the reason, it still haunts me…and I suspect always will. 

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