Bucks I have known: Part I
The Whitetail Deer is the most widely hunted big game animal in North America. Most hunters who have spent any amount of time pursuing these magnificent animals have stories — about ones they have taken, ones they have missed, and ones that simply slipped away. In this series, I want to share a few stories of my own from hunts over the years, along with some photos. I hope you enjoy these stories of some “Bucks I Have Known.”
The Blowdown Buck
It was late in the season, unusually warm, with no wind. The deer didn’t seem to be moving. I had been watching what was normally a good area to see deer but had not seen anything all morning. About 11 o’clock, I decided to take a walk and see if I could make something happen.
I made sure my rifle scope was turned down to the lowest magnification, and removed the sling, to make my gun more ready for quick action. I started slowly working my way out a narrow ridgetop that dropped off steeply into rocks and laurel on both sides. I planned to peek over each side from time to time.
As I was slipping slowly along, holding my rifle at the ready like a bird hunter expecting a pheasant to flush, I noticed a big tree had been uprooted on top of the ridge. Its top created a maze of branches on the ground.
Suddenly, less than 20 yards away, a doe stood up out of the tree top and paused for a second before bolting for the edge. The buck that was hidden with her never stood up, and never hesitated. He came out from under the branches like a rocket, his nose about a foot off the ground. I could see the muscles bulging in his hind quarters, and the sun glinting off big wide antlers as he launched himself towards the safety of the laurel.
I flipped the safety off as the rifle came to my shoulder, swung the crosshair to the front edge of his shoulder and pressed the trigger. I shot again as he went over the edge, and saw his white belly flip up.
I found him just over the edge. The second shot was unnecessary. Either hit would have been fatal. It happened so fast, it seemed surreal.
If the doe had not stood up for a second before taking off, I don’t think I could have been ready when he blasted out like he did. The whole episode probably lasted less than five seconds but will forever be burned into my memory.
The Halo Buck
It was a beautiful, still, frosty morning — the kind that deer hunters dream of. I was sitting in a pop-up ground blind, shortly before sunrise.
Using binoculars, I could make out the shapes of deer in the fields in front of me. I saw some movement in left edge of my field of view. I picked out two deer streaking across the field, running from the left rear to the right front of my viewing area. It was a large buck, chasing a doe.
As they crossed in front of me, I saw one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen while hunting. The long beam on the right side of the buck’s antlers seemed to float above his head like a halo. It was an amazing image, made possible in the predawn darkness by good quality binoculars. The pair of deer crossed the field and were gone before shooting light.
A bit later, around 8:30 in the morning, I saw a doe come into the field, from the same spot they had exited. She had her tongue out and was obviously being pushed. The buck was coming right behind her. I recognized the long beams of his wide rack as he came pushing the doe head on.
He paused, turning slightly to his right, and I dropped him with one shot.
It was a great morning, and a great hunt. But the sight of that buck’s rack — seeming to float along above his head as he ran — is something I will remember forever. I will always think of him as the Halo Buck.
Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.