This is the latest in a multi-part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.
The Second Day Buck
Opening day of West Virginia deer firearms season is a yearly event that I have looked forward to since before I was old enough to even carry a gun. It is still one of my favorite days of the year. I’ve missed very few of them in the last 50 years or so. But sometimes other things in life have taken priority.
In the mid 1990’s, my daughter, Caitlin Shambaugh, was a little girl struggling with some health problems. She was having a lot of cold/sinus issues, ear infections, and had even had pneumonia several times. Her pediatrician recommended she have her tonsils removed and tubes put in her ears to help correct these problems. So, the surgery was scheduled for — you guessed it — opening day of deer season! I definitely would not be hunting that day, or even thinking about it. Even though I was convinced that the procedure was the best course of action, and low risk, I was terrified for Caitlin to have this surgery.
Thankfully, the procedure was very successful, and later proved to be extremely helpful for her. She was only in the hospital for one night, was released the next morning, and happily settled in back home by 11 a.m.
With deer season in, and things all secure at home, by about 11:30 that morning, I grabbed my gear and was headed for the woods.
It was a mild, sunny afternoon for late November. It seemed like I had no sooner gotten settled into my stand when I spotted a big doe walking slowly along a trail on the ridge across from me. Following the doe, was a nice 8-point buck. My old 77 Ruger barked, and the buck dropped on the spot. When I looked at my watch, it was just before 1 p.m. I had been in the woods for less than an hour.
I vividly remember the overwhelming emotions of that moment. Of course, I had tremendous feelings of gratitude that things had gone so well for my little girl. I also felt very fortunate to be able to get into the woods so soon. I felt even more fortunate to have been blessed so quickly with such a nice buck, after missing opening day.
Many different things can make a hunt memorable — an exceptional animal, beautiful country, good luck, bad luck, etc. But if a person lives the outdoor lifestyle, sometimes events surrounding a hunt can leave even more of an impression than the hunt itself. In this case, hunting, or taking a deer, was not a priority until much more important things were resolved. But as soon as everyone was doing well at home, the hunt was back on. It really is a way of life for many folks.
I will always remember the range of emotions I felt during the events leading up to that hunt and will always feel especially grateful for The Second Day Buck.
Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.