The Perfect Deer
The Massachusetts shotgun season for whitetail deer opened Monday morning with the legal shooting hour being thirty minutes before sunrise. Since the sun rose at 6:58 a.m. that meant that the magic time was 6:28. Our hunting group of eight hardy souls had already enjoyed a breakfast of French toast and told a number of stories, some of them true. The plan on opening morning is always to take stands at first light and maintain them until 9 a.m. Since deer are active at dawn and dusk as they move from feeding to resting areas, that is a time to watch trails for deer moving naturally or disturbed by other hunters.
This writer had not done anything near the amount of pre-season scouting that is normally undertaken and one jaunt had not produced much recent sign. When discussing where we were going, another hunter offered a stand he was not using and I took him up on his offer. So as the woods began to wake up my butt was sitting sixteen feet in the air watching and waiting.
It was cold, under 20 degrees before dawn, but with today’s clothing and the juices flowing, it was comfortable sitting with my eyes scanning 360 degrees looking and listening for a deer. After about an hour, a movement directly behind me caught my eye and it was a deer moving parallel to me in the thick brush about a hundred yards away. Even with the scope, it was hard to tell if the white over the deer’s head was the lining of an ear or antlers but it was slowly walking towards an opening. Then, with the deer behind some small pines, movement stopped and the waiting game began. After a couple minutes, I decided to try a couple of grunts with a grunt call and see if the deer would get curious. No response. After a couple more minutes, it was my guess that the deer had walked away towards the other stand. Using the Garmin RINO radio that is the stock in trade for deer hunters, I pressed the talk-to-play and whispered “There is a deer between us”.
Immediately, the deer stepped out into the overgrown skidder road where I had walked in and stared right in my direction and then walked quartering away. Mounting the Remington 1100, I pushed off the safety and grunted twice with my voice. The deer, now clearly a legal buck, stopped and when the crosshairs were lined up the shot rang out and the deer took off like greased lightning.
My father, an excellent shooter, taught me to remember the sight picture when the shot was taken and it had been right where I wanted it to be. Then came the wait. A radio call asked what had happened and I reported that I was heading to see. The sign was clear that the deer was well hit and was down stone dead about a hundred yards away. Best of all, it was only a short drag to where we could drive the truck. The field dressing revealed that the shot had hit the heart and lungs; a quick kill with no wasted venison. The three pointer weighed 120 pounds on Grrr Gear’s scales.
Thinking back, my first deer was an identical three-pointer almost fifty years ago in Stoddard, New Hampshire. Like many young boys, I would dream about getting a deer and, believe it or not, those deer were three point bucks. To date, I have taken over ten similar yearling bucks sporting three point racks. Maybe I should have dreamt about eight pointers!
In Massachusetts, you get two buck tags with your license so I hunted the rest of Monday and will be back at it today. Local reports seem to indicate that the deer are healthy and kill totals are close to average. When you consider the influencing factors the totals are positive. With the extremely hard winter with deep snow and high kill last season, combined with the lack of snow cover, that is telling. Snow is the XFactor. It puts more hunters in the woods and snow makes everyone a better hunter as it provides “real time” information on deer activity. Opening day and Saturdays many deer are taken because they are moved into a hunter by other hunters. Most of us would be hard pressed to take a deer without external factors. I will be the first to admit that this deer, like many others, was taken with “a little help from my friends”. It was not me who placed the stand or scouted the location but we all exchange information and work together.
After bagging my deer, the rest of my day was spent as a “dog” or driver who moved through the cover trying to move deer to my fellow hunters. We did see some deer and twice hunters without doe tags were able to watch antlerless deer walk by in easy range. Oh well!
Massachusetts 2016 licenses are now on sale. They make a great Christmas gift.