Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thank you Mr Lincoln

Here's the story about harvesting the largest deer I've taken up to date.  The story's over 5 years old, and I've shopped it around a time or two.  It's never seen the light of day, so I figured what better forum than right here.  I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you Mr Lincoln

I don't normally consider myself a superstitious person, but when it comes to deer hunting, all bets are off.  I’ve got my favorite flannel, and a usual routine that I like to follow.  I pack up early and check my gear often.  Sometimes it seems like good karma is almost as important as the license, so I try to have a positive attitude, and be as prepared as possible.  Well, at least prepared enough to have a good day, without looking like a Polar expedition.

I feel that being prepared means having everything I’ll need from the beginning of my hunt to the end.  Including all of the items I’ll need, should I be successful.  Often if I get to the woods and realize I don’t have a pen, then mentally, my day is shot.  All hunters are great at coming up with excuses; mine tend to revolve around poor preparation.  As if not having a pen, or a piece of string is some kind of jinx that keeps the animals away.

The 2007 deer season was no exception to this.  Like most hunters I packed my field bag and vest a good two days prior to the season.  After checking and double-checking my gear, I finally placed all of it in the vehicle for safekeeping.  Later on while running some last minute errands I came across a head's up penny lying on the ground in front of a grocery store.  Being within 24 hours of the start of the deer season, I had to pick it up, and hope for any bit of good luck for tomorrow.  As I slipped the coin into my wallet, I laughed to myself, thinking that this was a little silly, but what's the harm.

I went about the rest of my day, not giving it too much thought of that penny and I set to completing some yard work while trying to clear my mind, so that I could relax and enjoy the season opener, tomorrow.  As a cleared the yard I came across another head's up penny, lying on the front step of my house.  This was just too much, so I laughed out loud as I placed my second "lucky" penny into my wallet.

I felt that my “lucky” penny experiences were just too foolish to tell any of my hunting partners.  Knowing them, if I did tell them about my pennies, I’d never hear the end of it.  There's always a good bit of ribbing out in the deer woods, and my pennies would be just too easy of a target.

As with most other hunter's, I barely slept the night before the season.  Finally giving up the struggle, I got out of bed around 4:15am.  I showered, dressed, and went downstairs to have some breakfast, and watch the weather forecast.  Saying that the weather here in Northwest PA was less than ideal would be an understatement.  We had fog and rain forecast for the entire day.  Undeterred we made the 35 minute drive to my cousin's property where we always spend opening day.  The property is small, but we’ve had good success on the opening day.

The day progressed just as usual, with some shooting on either side of the creek, but no deer through our spot.  By 9:15am my hunting partner Joe, left his tree to push through a brushy area that usually hides a deer or two.  I remained at my favorite tree hoping that Joe, and other hunters, would push the deer my way.  With the rain falling steadily I knew it would be hard to hear any deer approaching.  About 9:45am I glanced over my left shoulder in time to see a heavy antlered buck slipping past me at less than 20 yards.  The wet leaves had hidden his approach, and he has about to crest a small slope.  If he made it to the crest my shot would be unsafe.  Before reaching the crest the buck glanced away, and as he looked away I swung my gun and body into position to make the shot.

The Marlin 30-30 cracked and the deer bolted over the crest of the hill.  I worked the action and then made it up the slope to try and get a glimpse of where the he had run.  Just outside of my wood lot are two fields separated by a road.  All together the two fields span about 250 yards. Even with such a great distance the deer was out of sight by the time I reached the spot he had been standing.  Since I was pretty sure he was hit well, I began the search for blood, but the steady rain made finding blood, a lost cause.  Knowing the deer had to cross a road, I searched up and down the road for tracks, which might give me a clue to the deer's location.

Having no luck finding tracks or blood on my own, I got my hunting partner Joe on the radio, and told him I needed his help in locating a downed deer.  From his location it took him about 20 minutes through wet golden rod, to meet up with me.  Of course this was the longest 20 minutes of my life.  While I waited I searched with binoculars the field edges, hoping for a glimpse of a white belly or antlers.  When Joe arrived, I went over the shot and the deer's possible location.

The deer's most direct line would lead into the woods at the south end of the field.  I entered those woods at the nearest point, while Joe walked the field edge searching for sign.  After we covered the nearest portion and did not finding any sign, I began to lose heart that I had even wounded the deer.  I quietly hoped to myself that I missed clean, and we wouldn’t have a long messy recovery.  As I continued on the south end of the field, Joe crossed the field to begin checking the north side.  Shortly after reaching the field edge, Joe hollered to get my attention.  I began crossing the field and from Joe's body language, I could tell there was a deer down in the brush.  My spirit lifted as I made the quick walk across the field.

His antlers were larger than I remembered, with a standard eight-point rack and a two-inch kicker on the right G2, making him a nine pointer with a fourteen inch inside spread.  He field dressed out just north of 180 pounds.  He was a massive animal.  We made quick work of the field dressing, and let him hang for a short time, while we recounted the story.

I never fail to be amazed at how far and fast a wounded deer can run.  This deer had crossed almost 200 yards in the same time it took me to cover 20.  It just goes to show, in bad weather conditions, you have to take every necessary step to recover the deer you may have wounded.

We loaded him into the van, and made the short drive to our favorite meat market.  After I filled out the order form, I placed the receipt into my wallet.  Upon opening my wallet, I realized, I still had my two “lucky” pennies that I had found the day before.  I laughed out loud, as I thought to myself, "Sometimes superstitions really do payoff."

Happy Hunting
Scott M

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