Monday, November 17, 2014

The Buck that Ran Away

I missed the son-of-a-buck… I can’t figure out how but it wasn’t my fault. It was dark because of the snow clouds, and he was behind me and he was walking in some brush and I wasn’t at all accustomed to the rifle I was using. So he’s out there somewhere and I have to keep on hunting all this week. Well something good comes from every bad situation, if you look for it, but really I think I’d druther be hunting ducks this week.

I missed him, and I guess confession is good for the soul, because too many of my readers think I never miss what I shoot at, and that all my fish are lunkers. Those of us who write about the outdoors, too often skip over the times we goof up and fall out of the boat or have a big fish break the line… or miss an easy shot.

Deer season began cold and cloudy and my daughter didn’t get up in time to be in her deer-stand by first light. I went with her about an hour after dawn, helping her get all her pack of snacks and thermos and safety harness and ammo and rifle back to the stand, which sets 15 feet above the ground. It is one heck of a place to hunt deer.

She has been in that tree stand every opening morning for the past ten years and every year she has killed a buck there before noon. None of them have been monsters, one eight-pointer, a couple of sixes, and at least three or four fork-horns. For about five consecutive years she killed a deer with one broken antler, the darndest thing I ever saw.

But neither of us are after antlers, I have so many antlers I can’t find all of them. Some of them have been gnawed severely by squirrels and mice. I like killing a year-and-a- half or two-and-a half-year-old buck because if you take care of the meat right, they are pretty good eating, with good-sized loin steaks and ham steaks.

Using a mixture of 40 percent pork and 60 percent venison in a meat grinder, you can make the best hamburger for spaghetti and chili and stuffed peppers. Really, the meat of a year and a half old doe is the best venison you can put in a freezer, but a young buck isn’t bad at all as long as his neck isn’t all swollen and he’s in the rut. Younger bucks usually aren’t early in the deer season.

­Christy had never killed a two hundred pound buck. But Saturday morning an older buck, I estimate about four or five years old, came past her looking for acorns or does, maybe both. She passed up the shot and he ambled away behind her. An hour or so later he came back and she called me on her cell phone telling me she would need some help hauling him to the pickup. He had three points on one side and four on the other.

With her little 30-30 Winchester carbine, she had made a good shot and I estimate the weight of that deer would have been about 220 pounds. We always hang our deer from the same spot, and most of the bucks hang with their feet twenty inches off the ground. This one was so big his back hooves touched the ground. He may be one of those deer destined for jerky, summer sausage, hamburger and steaks that have to be run through a tenderizer.

About noon, I headed for my little cabin on the creek, about 25 miles to the north. It was beautiful and peaceful, without a blaze orange jacket in any direction, on any horizon. Not a sound except the crackling of the fire in the fireplace. The creek was closed over in one spot by ice, open in other places. Where there had been two-dozen wood ducks or so for a week, there was white ice, colored by the spitting snow that went on much of the day.

By two o’clock it was 30 degrees or so. I relaxed awhile, opened a can of beef stew and made some coffee. It was too early for me to go climb up in my tree stand. I am by nature very impatient and I can only sit anywhere about three hours before I get the urge to walk and take pictures. I had forgotten the .300 Savage carbine I usually hunt with. But I didn’t worry about that. I had Christy’s little 30-30 in the truck and I would use it. “When you can shoot like I can, what difference does it make what you hunt with?” I thought.

A little after three, I walked slowly through the woods to a beautiful spot and climbed up in my treestand. The place I have selected for it is a spot made for an outdoor calendar, but my stand is new and I have never hunted there before. About an hour before dark I watched a couple of does angle out into a small clearing about 100 yards away. One walked off into the woods going the wrong way, but the other one, just perfect for the kind of venison I like to put in the freezer, came slowly my way, and passed to the right of my stand only about ten yards away.

I thought about it. If I take this doe, I said to myself, I probably won’t have a chance to hunt deer during the muzzle-loader season. So I just watched her walk away, down behind my treestand. About twenty minutes before dark, I could hear her in the leaves coming back around on my other side and I glanced back at her. I don’t think it was the same doe. About fifteen yards behind her was a buck with just medium sized antlers, probably about 180 pounds.

I watched him, and I just couldn’t tell if he was legal. My cabin sits just across the line where you can only kill a deer with four points, due to the most ridiculous law the Conservation Department has ever levered on hunters. Most hunters pay little attention to it if they want to shoot a buck on their own land; they just call in their kill as an eight-pointer or more even if they have shot a fork horn.

If you don’t transport a deer out on the highway where agents are found, you have nothing to worry about and everyone knows it. Since they passed that stupid regulation, hoping it would attract out-of-state trophy hunters and allow them to sell a ton of high priced non-resident tags, I’ll bet there have been thousands of 4-and 6-point bucks called in as 10-pointers.

But I don’t intentionally break any laws, so I watched that buck, straining to try to count antler points. It was impossible, as he walked through the brush in the dim light. When I finally was about 60 percent sure he was a small-antlered eight pointer, I aimed at his heart and pulled the trigger. He left, actually passing the doe in his haste to escape.

I have determined the sights on Christy’s little Winchester are all messed up. I actually cut a tuft of white hair off his chest. Six inches higher and he’d be hanging down by my little creek-side cabin right now. So I will hunt deer again this week, and enjoy staying off in the wilderness, at peace with the world, watching the fireplace a little when it gets too cold to sit in my stand, where cell phones won’t work, and computers are taboo.

Or maybe I will hunt ducks. Who wants to work at a time like this?

Write to me with your own opinion of the MDC’s four-point rule covering the northern one third of our state. I will use some of your letters, for or against it, in this column. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email me at The website, where I put my new photos each week, is

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