…One Good Buck…

 

…click was all I heard as the buck slipped behind a cedar and vanished into the hillside.   My heart sank to my gut as the realization set in:  I had just missed my last opportunity of the season to harvest a deer, a really nice deer, a personal best.  Not a monster, but a, heavy mature 7 point, and some meat on the table none the less… 

 

My Grandpa Rogers had hunted the majority of his life.  His passion for hunting was passed down to his sons, and my father passed his love for the outdoors down to me.  Grandpa had harvested many deer in his lifetime, probably only bucks; he was an “old school” hunter.  We lost our lease in the late 80’s.  We did not hunt whitetail for almost a decade, until my uncle purchased some land on the southwest edge of the Texas Hill Country in 1999.  Grandpa was getting up in years so the first order of business was to find a spot close to camp for him to hunt.  We picked a site at the bottom of a gently sloping hill that had a trail back to camp and more importantly a short walk.  We appropriately named the spot Grandpa’s Blind, although the blind was still lacking.

The first two years we slept in a tent and sleeping bags.  He was always cold so he did not go out much, if at all.  The next season we upgraded to a trailer.  Grandpa was able to stay warm at night, maybe a little too warm.  It seemed he would rather stay warm and cozy in bed than get up for the morning hunt.  One bitter December morning I asked, “Grandpa, you goin’ out?”  As I glanced over at him, all I could see was his blaze orange knit hat sticking out from the covers.  A few minutes had passed when he poked his head out and said, “Son, I don’t think I have many hunts left in me”.  “Surely you have one good buck left in you Grandpa,” I replied.  He let out a disagreeing, “Yeah,” and sank beneath the covers leaving only that blaze orange hat exposed.  I headed out to Grandpa’s Blind that morning without putting too much thought into our brief conversation.  We had a little ground blind set up overlooking a feeder about 90 yards away.  Grandpa’s Blind was pretty active that morning.  The frigid air had the deer up early moving around.  I watched several doe travel down the hillside to the feeder.  They seemed to dawdle around graze in and out of the cedars.  Due to the cold and lack of a gun rest, I would watch them through the scope for a few seconds at a time then put the gun back down to warm up my hands.  As I was peering through the scope, I unexpectedly spotted another set of legs beneath the cedars.  Minute after minute after minute went by, finally a hearty old buck hastily made his way from behind the cedar.  I knew I would have only a few seconds to react.  I steadied the gun, with an unsteady hand, against a trembling shoulder, with a shaky elbow on a wobbly knee.  Finally I zeroed in on that little spot just behind the front leg …inhale…exhale…squeeze…click…

By the time I realized what happened and my thumb reached the safety, all that was exposed were the hind quarters.  I briefly contemplated shooting through the cedar, but that idea was quickly expelled.  The wise buck was able to slink off just as craftily as he came in.

                A few weeks later Grandpa made it to his blind and harvested a mature, main frame 8 point, with the G2 broke off near the main beam.  I was not at the ranch that weekend, but when the mount came back from the taxidermist I recognized that distinguished old buck immediately.  It was the same buck I encountered that chilly December morning at Grandpa’s Blind.  Grandpa passed a few years later, without harvesting another animal.  Sitting on the front pew of Grandpa’s memorial service, our conversation hit me like a load of 00 buck shot.  What I once perceived as a missed opportunity, in retrospect, became one of my most memorable hunts:

I had the pleasure of missing Grandpa’s last buck.