After Daughter snagged her first deer, my father-in-law (FIL) checked with the property owner of his deer lease to see if he could bring his grandkids out to do a youth hunt (spike and doe). Lease owner said yes. FIL told me. We worked out a date, and it was set and ready.
This was going to just be Oldest and Daughter; Youngest has finally expressed interest in hunting. We thought about taking him along, maybe he could sit in a stand with his “Pa-pa” and Brother and just watch and learn, but alas the stands are small and it’s hard enough to fit 2 people in. Youngest was cool with it tho as it gave him some “spoil me” time with Mom. 🙂
Packed up the gear and the kids and away we went. Met my FIL up there. Got to the property, took care of a few chores, then got dressed in warmer clothing to go sit in the stands. My FIL took Oldest, I sat with Daughter. I took my Wilson Combat AR-patterned rifle in 6.8 SPC with the Leupold VX-R 3-9×50, Wilson Combat’s 6.8 ammo using a 95 grain Barnes TTSX bullet. Oldest wanted to use the Savage .308 bolt-action, but I managed to talk him into shooting Pa-pa’s trusty .25-06 deer rifle. My FIL has hunted all his life and shot just about everything out there, and he considers .25-06 to be about the best thing for hunting out here given how flat it shoots. I trust his word, he’s far more experienced than I. Due to this, I thought it’d be good for Oldest to expand his horizons and try something else just to see how it compares, especially something that Dad doesn’t have. But there’s more to this angle of the story later….
You have to understand that Mills County is overrun with deer. After we did our chores and before we went to the stands, FIL and Oldest ran back into town for some supplies. Daughter and I stayed at the property and the property-owner’s daughter took us around the area in their Polaris Ranger Crew (DAMN that thing is fun, I want one, Santa!). Showed us a lot of the area, which was really neat. We saw so many deer running around. Just a ton of deer. Unreal. So yeah, a little herd management is in order.
Since there were so many deer and since we were just going for does, there really wasn’t much need to be picky. Just look for older does, ones without yearlings, and then the biggest one of the lot. No need to sit for hours and agonize, y’know?
We didn’t need to sit long at all.
Started out with 4 does coming in to feed. We glassed them and figured out which one was the taker. Alas, Daughter could never get a clear shot. Either the doe was in a wrong position, or there was a tree in the way.
As we waited, more came in. And more. Probably had a dozen deer poking around (I was told this was an abnormally low count; more typical to have 30+, and sometimes upwards of 50-60 or more at a time… yeah, that ridiculous; I’m sure if we had waited longer we would have seen more). Of them all, only 1 buck. Small one, I believe just a 6 pointer (if I remember correctly). Too small and young to take, legally or management wise. There was one doe that was simply gorgeous; the coloring of her fur, this very light tan with the white under her, impossible to describe to do it justice, but she stood out beautifully. Daughter asked if she could take her, but no, one that good needs to be left around to breed.
But the waiting is always the hardest part, especially when you’re a child and the weight of that rifle starts to wear on you. But we kept waiting and waiting… and eventually Daughter had a clear shot on a big old doe.
She took it.
I could see immediately that it was hit, shoulder area. It ran no more than 50 yards before coming to rest.
Interestingly, while the other deer ran off, they didn’t run far. I thought it was odd they didn’t all hit the tree line and vanish.
“Come on Dad! Let’s go see her!”
“No. Let’s wait. There’s 30 minutes of legal light left… let’s just wait. You never know.”
You see, the land owner was kind enough to allow me to also take a doe. So as soon as we confirmed Daughter’s doe was down, no reason to not switch off and let me try. The doe wasn’t going to go anywhere, and again, 30 minutes? No problem to wait, right?
And so I waited… Daughter grew impatient. I understand completely. But something told me to wait.
*BOOM* we hear in the distance.
(look at Daughter) “Hey… that must have been your brother.” We had been wondering how things were going for them. I guess that answered that question. Looking back, I realize the sound of his gunshot was a lot louder than I would have expected from a .25-06. I later found out why. You see, in my FIL’s rush to get out of the house he grabbed the .25-06 ammo, but not the .25-06 rifle. So when they got to the stand they realized they had a problem! FIL called back to the farm house and the property owner’s daughter let Oldest shoot her rifle — she doesn’t let anyone shoot her rifle (I later saw it, gorgeous wood work, fine piece). The rifle is chambered in .240 Weatherby Magnum. So uh… yeah… it’s got a lot more oomph. Oldest thought it was pretty cool, and I think it gave him some perspective.
Meanwhile, back in our stand….
Eventually I gave in. There was maybe 10 minutes of legal time left, so why not.
We packed our stuff up. Daughter climbed down the ladder. I started to climb down. Got one foot out the door when I looked up and out the window.
(to myself) “Oh shit! They’re coming back!”
(down the ladder) “Daughter, they’re coming back! Don’t move!!”
Sure enough, the ones that did hit the trees were coming back. I’m sure it was the same group, or at least, that one little buck was the same little buck.
I quickly grabbed the rifle and went to re-load it. This is one of the down-sides to an AR-patterned rifle for hunting: loading it will be LOUD. But I had no choice. I inserted the magazine, pulled back the charging handle and let it slam home. But thankfully no one noticed! No deer flinched, tho I winced in anticipation.
But the ugly part? I was in a horrible position. I didn’t want to move. I had one leg out the door, which then got wedged between the bottom of the door frame and the bottom of the door (my shin is still aching and bruised). I was basically kneeling, bad position, the rifle wasn’t well rested. I wanted to move, but was afraid of making too much noise (I’m big, the stand was very small, it was just difficult to move around without making noise). So I just did my best.
I glassed around, picked one that looked good. Slow smooth trigger press….
Actually it was more like *CLICK*… it was a deafening silence.
First thought, dud? Do remedial action, and that told me the problem: I hadn’t seated the magazine all the way. Damnit. And I had previously told Daughter to always check the seating. *sigh* Now I had to pull the charging handle again….. *cringe*…. and I did, it slammed home, and they heard it this time. Deer scattered, but not too far. Ugh.
My heart and head were racing. Time was ticking away. I really wanted to bag a deer as it would be sweet if all 3 of us got our deer in one evening.
I settled back down, the deer came back in. I tried to find a reasonable deer as quickly as I could. Found one, pressed off a shot… *BOOM* (good, it went boom not click).
And as soon as I saw the deer run, I doubt I had hit it. I watched as it made the treeline, no indication of faltering.
I did wonder if it could this be the rifle again having problems? Was it not the scope? I’m still wary with this setup, and I want to use it as much as possible to build back my confidence in the equipment platform. But in this case, I do figure it was my fault. I had a crappy shooting position and I was stubborn to not improve the position. Thinking back, I think I may have rested the barrel on the window ledge, not the rail tube. With the short length of the rifle, me being basically in the back of the stand, I recall when I first rested the rifle it “naturally” rested on the barrel, so I readjusted to rest the rail so the barrel floated. Well, when I had to reload I think in my haste I may have put it back down on the barrel, and that’s going to skew things. *sigh* Stupid as well because I knew I’d have another chance in the morning, so why didn’t I just take the chance to get a better shot now? I was impatient, due to both excitement and being mad at myself for screwing up.
Oh well. I learned something, and will eventually stop kicking myself over it.
We went ahead and found Daughter’s doe. Notified my FIL. Eventually they came up on the Polaris with Oldest and his doe already in the back. We then headed to the barn, got the tractor (raise up the hay spear, hang the gambrel from it), and headed off to another part of the property to field dress the deer. I watched my FIL expertly clean the deer. I’ve cleaned things before, but still lack supreme confidence in my ability to dress things correctly and cleanly. So I took a lot of mental notes, knowing that when I got my deer I would clean her.
Deer cleaned. Hung up in the barn (it was going to be so cold that night). Off to bed we went, with 2 happy hunters… and a happy Grandfather.
The next morning I arose. I was going to get my deer.
Got suited up in my long-johns and gear, grabbed the 6.8, and my FIL drove me out to the stand. Opted to use the same stand as I did yesterday. Into the stand I went (solo) and FIL drove back to the house. Was out there about 6:40 AM, so I didn’t have to wait long for sunrise (legal shoot time started at 7:00).
Shortly after legal time, one small doe came out of the woods followed by a couple of others. The others ran up the hill out of sight, but the one came in to feed. I glassed her and knew she was too small and young to take, but I still studied her.
You see, everyone tells me I need to take neck shots. I see why they aren’t promoted to young hunters or inexperienced hunters, because a vitals shot is a more sure thing and a lot easier to hit. Neck shot, you have to get it just right. But if you do, you save a lot of meat and should get a “DRT” (Dead Right There) hit and not have to chase/track the deer, which is ideal. I’ve been studying the anatomy of things and I wanted to do my first neck shot on this deer. So while this little doe wasn’t going to be shot, I kept watching and studying her in my binoculars to be sure I felt comfortable with shot placement.
I kept seeing movement by the tree line. Other does were coming out, but none wanted to come in. No matter. More will come. Patience.
Eventually some did, but either not shootable or not in a shootable position. Then I see off to my right, some others come in. One stood out to me: a 4-point buck, limping pretty badly. His right hind leg was messed up somehow. His left side was facing me so I couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, but it was a good limp. He was followed by a doe, which I figured was his girlfriend. The buck eventually laid down while the doe poked around at food. I glassed her. She looked good, a taker.
I waited for an opportunity. Yes, I was going to take the neck shot.
She gave it to me.
Obviously I didn’t need to wait. Signaled to my FIL that she was DRT. Packed up the bag. Headed down the ladder.
Walked about 90 yards to see her…. and then I realized… her was a him.
Yes, I had shot a spike. The antlers were barely peeking out of the fur on top of his head, but they were there. Who would have known at 90 yards? Impossible to have known. Size and coloration and everything looked like an older doe. But… wasn’t.
FIL later told me he was standing out in another field watching and saw the limping buck and the one I shot trotting over my way. FIL said that he had turned around to walk back to the house and hadn’t gone 10 steps when he heard me shoot and knew it was time to get in the Polaris to come get me. 🙂
We loaded him up, got the tractor, and under the expert tutelage of my FIL I field dressed the deer. I do feel more confident and, provided time isn’t critical, will certainly continue to dress and quarter my own in the future. The kiddos? They’re not quite ready for it. 🙂 Managed to save the heart and liver for the dog (she loves deer liver). I also was able to see that my neck shot was a little low, base of the neck, but still did the job of DRT. I learned from the experience.
Kiddos were done. They were ready to head home. I figure long weekends in the field will come later. I haven’t found the right words for hunting, but I have them for fishing. See, there’s “fishing” and then there’s “catching”. You can fish all day and never catch a thing and it’s a good day fishing. As a kid, as a first time fisherman, you want to catch; you don’t want to sit there and wait for hours and hours and never catch any fish. But the more you fish, the more you’re happy to sit and wait, to fish, to work, and again if you go home empty-handed after sitting all day on the water, that’s alright. For me, I’m transitioning from catching to fishing… well, hunting. I still want to take things home, I still get excited, I still want to “catch”. But I’m growing more and more content to sit, to wait. To see. The kiddos? Well, this was Oldest’s first deer and second kill; it was Daughter’s first whitetail and second kill. So they’re still squarely in the “catching” camp. And once we caught, they wanted to get back to the warmth and comfort of home. It just means we have to go hunting more often, that’s all. 🙂
In the end tho, it was a great time. I’m so happy that my FIL got to spend time with his grandkids. I know he’s been looking forward to hunting with them for a long time, and finally he was able to. He told me Oldest was so thrilled, so excited, and listening to my FIL recount the moments tells me that he’s got some pretty happy memories made by this hunting trip. To me, that’s what it was all about.
BTW, no pics because my phone camera doesn’t have a flash, but FIL’s did. So he took all the pictures. But he’s still out hunting for a few days and the reception out there is pretty bad. When he gets back home he’ll send me the pics he took.
I learned a lot on this trip, be it to double-check the seating on your magazine, to just risk improving your shooting position, that I really want a Polaris Ranger, improvement in my cleaning/field dressing skills, or to strive for the neck shot (DRT is good). I learned. It was enjoyable to spend time with my father-in-law and to learn from him. I liked being out with my kiddos, but again, I think the best part of this was enabling Grandpa and Grandkids to make some memories together. I know the Kiddos were happy for it and are looking forward to more opportunities in the future, as is Grandpa.