Hello from the Deck!
December 1st 2018 was a perfect hunting day. Frosty and cold, clear skies and a light wind. Perfect for the Hawken. I explored a new area, climbing to 1300 feet elevation. I had identified a south facing big stand of timber and muskeg complex that given its location should hold a few deer.
As I entered the first muskeg, I called in a doe who circled in the open finally catching my wind. With short days to hunt, I pushed on to the timber stand I wanted to explore. I was pleased, it was very open, deer sigh everywhere. I could see out to a hundred yards in most every direction. I still hunted to the edge of where the slope dove downhill. I crawled into the buttressed roots of a large spruce where the slope fell away beneath me. The ridge to the west also looked like a good bedding spot. If I were a deer, I would be on the south facing slopes absorbing the noon sun.
I called several times and waited. A doe appeared about 120 yards away. Her neck, face, and flanks were wet from where a buck was tending her. She moved to about 70 yards away. I caught a glint of antler coming down the ridge. He stopped at 120 yards, in the cold air and sunlight filtering through the trees you could see his breath. The doe came closer and he moved to about 80 yards distant, obscured by a windfall. He grunted to her and she turned back towards him. They moved north behind a veil of windthrow and brush. She entered the last possible opening, and I ranged her at 70 yards. She moved through the opening and away up the ridge.
I readied for the shot. The buck entered the opening between the trees and I mouth grunted him to a stop. He turned, looking for the challenger. I told myself to aim small miss small resting on the spruce root. The smoke obscured the shot. I rolled right and could see the buck 20 yards up the ridge…
I swore I saw him go down. As I reloaded, I replayed the shot picture in my mind. As a hunter we always begin to doubt the outcome until we touch the animal. I put my pack on and worked my way through the huge open forest and turned onto the trail the deer had used. Where the buck had stood were a couple tufts of hair. The trail was churned up where he ran after the shot. I followed. Seeing the first bright red blood, my doubt eased.
As I rounded a rocky ridge, he laid where I had last seen him. A grand Sitka blacktail. He had only gone 20 yards from where he stood at the shot.
I am so thankful for public lands where we can have such experiences. I sat in a ray of sunshine on the forest floor surrounded by enormous trees and paid my respects. I took some photos and boned and caped the buck. The pack was heavy on my shoulders as I made my way back down through the forest arriving at the truck as the last bit of sunlight faded behind the horizon. The weight felt good, the rewards of a perfect day and hunt. I am always humbled.
We should never take the opportunities we have for granted. For me this was a personal milestone. This wonderful buck is the 200th animal I have taken with a traditional black powder rifle. As a hunter, days just do not get better than this.