Bucks I have known: Part II
This is the second in a multi-part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.
The Battle Buck
If a person hunts long enough, they will experience some unbelievable things involving wild animals. Some true stories are crazier than anything a hunter could make up.
A few years ago, I was planning an elk hunt in Idaho. The hunt would be unguided on a mix of public land and private property.
A good friend, who farms one of the places I would be hunting, told me to make sure I got a deer tag. He said he was seeing a couple of good bucks coming out in a harvested wheat field.
When I got to Idaho, my friend showed me where he had been seeing the bucks. He even had big round hay bales stacked in the opposite corner of the field that I could climb up on for a better vantage point.
As I climbed into position that afternoon, I noticed a horse in a nearby paddock, watching me with mild interest.
Shortly before sunset, I noticed the horse staring intently at the other end of its paddock, just across from a corner of the field I was watching. I felt certain that the horse was watching some sort of animal, possibly a deer, elk, or coyote.
Suddenly, the horse took off at a brisk trot and disappeared behind some brush at that end of its pasture. I could hear hooves thumping and pounding. Then, I heard the loudest buck grunt/bawl I have ever heard in my life. My buddy, who was watching a different nearby field, heard it, too. The horse came flying back into its paddock at a gallop and slid to a stop, obviously shaken.
A couple of minutes later, a big whitetail buck stepped out from the corner where all the ruckus had just occurred. I didn’t need to look at him long to tell he was a good one. I dropped him on the spot.
He sported a big wide heavy 9-point rack, and was the biggest bodied whitetail I have ever seen. He had also just driven off a horse! I think that makes him pretty memorable.
The Windstorm Buck
Opening day of West Virginia gun season a few years ago, a group of us that worked at Peacemaker National Training Center met in the shop before daylight, preparing to hunt some of the range property. Most of the hunters in the group were precision rifle shooters, and normally set up to hunt open areas. The problem was, along with the bitter cold that morning, there were wind speeds of 25-30 mph. Most of the guys decided to take up more conventional stands in some of the sheltered hollows on the property, instead of watching the more exposed rifle ranges.
I had planned to take up a position on top of a high berm that had been built as a backstop for rifle matches. That position gave me a great view of a couple of overgrown fields as well as a nice creek bottom, with lots of potential areas for a shot at 300-500 yards.
To add to the appeal of this spot, we had recently been seeing a really nice 8-point courting does all over the area I would be covering. So, in spite of the rough weather, I decided to go ahead and climb up there for my morning sit. To put it mildly, the conditions were brutal, and any long shots would be tough.
Sure enough, later that morning, the big 8-point came over the ridge in front of me, in hot pursuit of a doe. She led him down the hill, then made a loop starting back up. They were about to pass between two pine trees in the brushy field, which I had ranged at 450 yards. The wind was still blowing full power from the left, but was not completely at a right angle, which helped lessen its effect a little. The buck paused, turning slightly to the left, facing the wind. I had a rock-solid position, laying prone, with the bipod on the rifle dug into the soft dirt of the berm. I had also dialed the correct elevation into the scope. The wind hold was going to make or break the deal. I held just ahead of the buck’s shoulder, on the big part of his neck, to allow as much room as I could for the wind to push the bullet to the right and still be in the vitals. It worked perfectly. A solid hold at the front of the buck’s shoulder allowed the wind to push the bullet back into his ribs for a clean shot.
Sometimes, rough conditions make a hunt all the more memorable.
Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.