This is the latest in a multi-part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.
The Disappearing Buck
One fall, many years ago, I had been squirrel and turkey hunting on a friend’s property on the west end of Morgan County. Of course, while hunting for squirrels and turkeys, I was also scouting for deer sign.
As I wandered around these beautiful woods, I started finding some nice buck rubs. After a bit of looking around, I located a line of these rubs. You could stand at one, and see at least one more, heading down a point. I followed this line of rubs to the back side of the property, where they led down the top of a very steep backbone ridge. After a short distance, the ridge dropped off into a cliff face, which was nearly vertical, and covered in laurel. I felt that this was likely a bedding area. It seemed that the buck making these rubs had a pretty good hiding place.
Instead of trying to approach his “fortress,” I decided to try to find a spot where I could observe it from a distance.
Opening day of West Virginia Buck Season found me across a hollow, about 150 yards away, watching the area where the rub line led down over the backbone ridge.
Just after first light, a nice buck appeared right where I was expecting him. He was walking calmly down the ridgetop, heading into the steep, thick cover.
The only problem was, from my vantage point, every step he took, he dropped further down behind the ridge! He was disappearing like a duck in a carnival shooting gallery. In a few steps, he would be completely out of my sight.
Just before he completely disappeared, I managed to get my sights on his shoulder and fire. In that instant, he was gone. It was almost like he had never been there.
The ridge was so steep and difficult to navigate, I thought I should get a friend to go with me to see if my shot was true.
It’s a good thing I did. The shot had dropped him on the spot, but he rolled just over the back side of the ridge. We had to position him carefully for field dressing, then carefully get him to the top edge, to keep from losing him down the other side, which would have made recovering him a much bigger job. When we got to him, we noticed that his antlers swept up in the front and were polished shiny. I believe that this was from spending so much time feeding on acorns against the extremely steep hillsides where he lived.
The ones that we work hard for in rough country are always more memorable than the easy ones. I will never forget the image of that buck, as he was dropping from my sight with every step he took. I will always think of him as The Disappearing Buck.
Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.