It was cold, at least for me, with the temperature around 20F. It was dark with no moon. Only the stars were out. I was sitting under a big Chinese Elm tree. The trunk is so big around that two men couldn't reach around it and touch hands. There were a bunch of little elm trees in a ring about six feet out from the trunk of the big elm and I had piled a bunch of brush up against the outside of them to help break up my outline. I was sitting on a 5 gallon bucket painted grey and black and I had the pad from an old kitchen chair so the top of the bucket wouldn't cut into my backside while I sat there trying to be still and quiet, waiting for a deer. My glasses kept wanting to fog up because my turtle hood was closed around my face to keep warm. I had my right hand in my pocket with a hand warmer so my fingers wouldn't get numb with cold.
At times like this electronic ear muffs are a big help. They amplify every sound you make so you tend to be more still and quiet, or it least it works that way for me.
I'd been sitting there for more than an hour and the sky was starting to get gray in the east. A bobcat walked by 20 feet away and apparently never knew I was there.
A turkey gobbled from the roost just behind me. Tentatively at first, then louder. Soon joined by another, then another. More joined until it sounded like sports fans doing a wave.
The turkeys started coming off the roost and landing around me. I was facing north, sitting under an isolated tree in the middle of a meadow that measured about 50 yards north and south by about 300 yards east and west with big trees in front of me and behind me. More turkey landings. An almost unbelievable number of turkeys. The whole meadow was literally filled with more coming in to land and landing on top of or crashing into the turkeys already on the ground. There were toms and hens within ten feet of me on every side. 300 was probably a very conservative guess.
They started the wave again. The screeching and gobbling would start at one end of the field and move towards the other end, then return. It was so loud I couldn't hear anything else. I lifted my muffs to hear with my own ears and it was like a physical force hitting me as I sat there. At least I didn't have to worry about the deer hearing me or seeing me move.
After 15 or 20 minutes of continuous noise and movement the birds started to break up into groups of 25 or so and move off in various directions. By a little after 9:00am they were almost all gone. Just a few small groups still in sight. I was thinking that maybe I should have shot some of them so I wouldn't go home empty handed.
At one point I saw a buck looking at me through a hole in the brush about 100 yards away. I couldn't see his body, only his head and he moved away before I could have fired even if he'd been visible. I hoped he would come back and visit me.
I was looking to the east, on my right, watching a group of turkeys wandering around and checking to make sure a deer didn't try to slip across that 50 yard stretch in that direction.
I gradually turned back to the north and started to look to my left and I almost jumped. There was a mule deer buck about 10 yards away on my left. I didn't even count the points, I just noted that he was a big deer. Right behind him was a doe. They came around from my left and started crossing in front of me.
I started working on getting my rifle up. About half way to my shoulder the buck must have seen some movement because he looked at me. I froze and held my breath. He put his head back down and slowly wandered along, now less than 10 yards in front of me, crossing from my left to right.
I was perfectly calm. As I got my rifle up I realized the buck was so close that I couldn't focus on him through the scope. I had a bolt action with a Leupold M8 fixed 4x scope, so it wasn't that I had a moon scope set on 12x or something like that. He was just too close.
Not really a problem if you normally shoot with both eyes open. I could see the reticule with my right eye and I could see the buck with my left eye and my brain put the two together correctly.
The buck jumped at the shot and ran like his tail was on fire into the trees about 50 yards away. I noted carefull where he went in, then turned to look at where the doe went.
I almost jumped again when I saw her standing exactly where she had been and looking at me. I looked at her and waited, figuring I should give the buck a little time to bed down and die.
After the doe had looked me over a little she turned her head to look at where the buck had been standing a few seconds before. She did kind of jump when she saw he wasn't there. She turned her head as far around to the left, then back as far as she could to the right, looking all around for that buck. Finally, she sort of flicked her ears and her tail, put her head down and started nibbling the grass as she slowly walked off. I guess at the sound of the shot she looked at where the sound came from and didn't notice the buck running away. I enjoyed her company for 10 or 15 minutes, maybe longer. I wasn't really looking at my watch at that point.
Finally, I got up and went to find the buck. I could follow his trail through the grass where he had knocked it down and brushed off the frost. He followed a trail down into the trees. I found him about 100 yards from where he was hit. It looked like he had fallen straight forward down a slight incline and bled out there. I squated down and lifted his head by his rack to admire him. He was a 3x5 and the rack was a little small for all those points. I didn't care. I was thrilled. I set his head down and stood up to see which way was the quickest back to the truck, or the way with the fewest grass burrs, which was more important.
As I looked around considering my options I saw a whitetail buck about 40 yards away, straight in front of me, staring at me. I think he was the same buck I'd seen earlier looking at me. He had a beautiful, symetric 4x4 rack. Not the biggest rack in the world, but the classic whitetail 8 point rack. I had never seen anything so perfect.
I was standing in the open. I had just been moving without worrying about how much noise I made. I was standing over a mule deer buck laying in a pool of blood. I was sure the buck would run away.
I was shocked when he started moving towards me. He would stop every few feet and sniff me, then come closer.
At this point I came down with my first and so far only case of buck fever. My knees were litteraly shaking so bad that they were knocking together and I had to clamp my jaws shut to keep my teeth from chattering. He came closer and closer. I squinted my eyelids down to tiny slits so he wouldn't see me staring at him and I told myself "Stand still and he'll think you are a tree."
He came up to maybe 12 yards of me and sniffed me over thoroughly. Satisfied with that he started angling slightly away to go past me.
At this point the case of nerves left me. I started raising the rifle slowly. He caught some sound or movement because he stopped and jerked his head around to look at me and sniff again. I froze. I guess the mule deer at my feet fooled him because he turned his head and started walking again.
I started raising the rifle again and again he looked at me, then moved on. This cycle repeated several more times until he was around 20 yeards away, walking slowly, quartering away from me. At that point I had my rifle up, put the reticule towards the back of his rib cage and pressed.
At the shot he flinched, looked around and started walking slowly the same way he had been heading before. When the rifle came down from the recoil I saw the "ropes of blood" that Elmer Keith mentioned.
Later I looked at his trail and found a contiuous trail of dark blood on his left side and intermittant spots where bright blood had sprayed out on his right side. Apparently, I hit a large vein near the entrance wound and a large artery near the exit wound.
He walked slowly for a few yards, then fell on his face.
Two nice deer down within 25 yards and 30 minutes of each other.
When I got back to the truck my dad was already there and he asked "Did you see any?"
Here is the mule deer.
Here is the whitetail.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a pic showing both where they fell in one shot. I'll know better if there is a next time.
They were both delicious.
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