Physical issues curbed my enthusiasm and ability to hunt much this year and I don’t have many brand new hunting stories. However, a good thing about hunting stories is they never grow old as long as you are telling the tales to new people. So here’s one of mine from yesteryear and like all good stories, it ends with a moral.
Seeing the huge bucks locking horns in the pre-dawn gloom through my binoculars gave me two instant thoughts. First, “Oh my goodness! Each one of those deer are huge!”
I had been drawn to hunt at the Newport Army Ammunition Depot, then one of the Indiana military installations like Crane, Jefferson Proving Grounds and others that allowed hunters in for a few days each year to curb their deer populations. Unlike the flatlands I was used to at home in Newton County, Newport has terrain!
I’d been able to pre-scout the area a couple weeks before the season. A road bordered the north side of the area to which I was assigned. Just off the road and mostly parallel to it was a steep sided canyon. No deer stands were allowed so I decided my best bet was to skirt around the end of the canyon under cover of darkness to the far side where I could take a position and watch for deer below from the south rim. The trek was about two miles, mostly in a flat, harvested bean field. A bright moon and heavy frost made for easy hiking.
I spotted the fighting bucks very near the vantage point I planned to hunt. That’s when the second thought flashed through my head.
“If I shoot one of them, how am I going to drag it out?” Two hundred pounds of dead skin, bones and antlers at the end of a rope doesn’t make for an easy two mile hike.
Then I mentally kicked myself in the butt. “Don’t worry about that now. The chances of you ever seeing one of those bucks again is slim and if you do, worry about the exit strategy later.”
An hour later I was centering the crosshairs on “Mr. Big” standing 50 yards away on the south rim of the earthen rift.
Bang! He whirled around and headed downhill, through the trees, into the canyon. A scoped gun proved worthless on a running deer in the forested environment. No chance of a follow-up shot. In seconds, he was at the bottom, too far to even attempt a shot and the last I saw the running buck was as it crossed the skinny creek at the bottom of the gulch. I marked the spot mentally, then tripped and slipped down the leaf littered slope, to the rivulet at the bottom, across and up the north bank.
There I was greeted with a blood trail nearly three feet wide. I followed it up and up the north slope. Eventually, I was to the top and only then, when I was on the flat northern rim did I spot the beast piled up, dead, and laying less than 10 yards from the road.
I was able to answer a question every deer hunter wants to know. “Where’s the best place to shoot a really big buck?”
The answer....near the road!