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For many people Thanksgiving is spent with family members watching the Macy’s parade and preparing for the Black Friday sales. ForÂ my family and me, Thanksgiving marks one very important time of the year in Oklahoma, deer rifle season. Not only do we enjoy each otherâ€™s company around the dinner table but we spent those brisk mornings with each other in the deer blind. This year I had the opportunity to hunt with cousin Triston. Triston is a highly active teenager who is extremely passionate about his outdoor activities.
We awoke early on the morning after Thanksgiving Day to a temperature of about 23 degrees. I had read the weather forecast before leaving California but did not realize how cold it would be. To say the least, I was unprepared. Luckily enough Triston and I are the same size so he loaned me some clothing and gear. All suited up and only as warm as one can be in 23 degree weather, we drove towards the land where we would be hunting.
Triston told me a little about the location. The land belonged to a friend of my uncle who allowed them to hunt a 150 acre section. The land was thickly clad with oak trees and was surrounded by sprawling fields, a perfect place for deer. Triston, his brother Colton, and my Uncle Dale have been suitably managing this section of land for a couple of years and it has begun to show in the overall quality of deer.
As we drove, Triston went on to tell me that the rut was now in full swing and the bucks were actively chasing the does well into the late hours of the morning. The cold weather would help keep the deer from bedding down. The night before, we had spent about an hour going over trail camera pictures. Their deer certainly were looking good.
I am not much of a trophy hunter and usually prefer to take does for the quality of meat but this hunt would be different. On this land they do not shoot does during the peak of the rut because the does are what attract the bucks. Does are usually taken at the end of the season when the excitement of the rut fades and putting meat in the freezer becomes a priority.
As we browsed the trail cam pictures, I noticed one large irregular buck which caught my eye. The inner competitor inside me took over. I wanted this large buck and as a result I mentally labeled him as my own even though I knew the chances of seeing this deer would be slim. Older deer like this one are usually smarter than to feed in daylight. They tend to stick to a more elusive pattern of nocturnal movement.
We arrived to the gate, realizing that Triston had left the gate key at home. Now we would embark and a 1 mile hike to the box blind in the pitch black and freezing cold. As we walked the excitement became overwhelming and made the hike elapse quickly as my thoughts wandered to my previous hunt. I had spent a week in late October hunting Southern Mule Deer in California. The success rate in San Diego County was only 10% and I ended the California trip empty handed, only seeing two does and a yearling. This was a blow to my morale because I hadnâ€™t harvested a deer in almost eight years due to college. I knew that my chances were much better in Oklahoma where the statewide deer population is almost double that of the population in California. I was genuinely energized for this hunt.
We arrived to the hunting blind which stood about 15 feet in the air and hovered above us in the darkness like an empty skyscraper. I grabbed the unpleasantly cold rails of the ladder and pulled myself up and into the box. I seated myself in the padded folding chair where I would perch for the next few hours. It was still pitch black outside and I could only see the outlines of various trees and shrubs. I would later learn that the small area we were hunting wasnâ€™t much bigger that a baseball field. It had four game trails that intersected about 30 yards from the blind near the base of the deer feeder.
We would wait in the darkness for about an hour until there was enough light to shoot. In that duration we would spot some movement on one of the trails toward the feeder. A doe, whose shadow was only visible through binoculars, fed for about ten minutes before disappearing back into the gloom. This further mustered my anticipation of taking a buck.
The sun began to rise as I looked around to memorize the landscape. Triston pointed out the locations of each game trail. I scanned each trail eagerly in expectation. I wanted to see the large irregular buck saunter down the trail towards the blind. The feeder activated at 6:45am. The following hours would be our best chance at seeing deer.
Within minutes of the feeder activating, two does appeared out of the oaks and began feeding on the dried corn. We watched the two feed quietly in front of us. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye as a strong bodied four by four buck strolled from the trail to our right. He was locked in on the scent of the does. His neck was straight out like a bird dog and his upright white tail was waving like a flag in the breeze.
He approached the feeder and began chasing the larger of the two does. He chased her away from the feeder and into a smaller clearing. They then moved into the wood line. It happened so quickly that Triston and I didnâ€™t discuss taking the shot on the buck. We returned to watching the remaining doe while scanning the trails. My adrenaline was definitely pumping at the sight of the large buck. He wasnâ€™t the irregular that I wanted but he would certainly put out enough meat.
We waited for another twenty minutes until the last doe walked back into the woods. The same buck reemerged within seconds of the doe disappearing. Triston elbowed me, â€œHe is back. Do you want him?â€ I nodded my head and he handed me the rifle. I carefully positioned the rifle against my shoulder. I looked through the scope. The buck was traveling directly towards me and didnâ€™t offer a good shot. We waited. He headed towards the feeder and then turned broadside. He looked as though he picked up the scent of the other doe and began to run. I followed him with my cross hairs. Triston grunted and the buck froze. I recognized the signal and squeezed the trigger.
The bullet struck the buck directly in the â€œsweet spotâ€ at the rear of his shoulder blade about a third of the way up his body. He jumped into the air and began running towards the wood line. He continued until he disappeared in the oaks. I looked at Triston who was grinning from ear to ear. He was just as excited as I was. I had broken my dry spell with a beautiful deer.
We waited an hour before we climbed down to search for the buck. We didnâ€™t see him fall and all I could image was that he had run deep enough into the woods that it would be almost impossible to find him. I pictured us walking up to a pack of wild coyotes or the rumored mountain lion to be feasting on the buck. We found him intact just inside the oaks. He had traveled about fifty yards from where I shot him, just far enough to be out of view. I squatted near the downed animal and picked the head up by the antlers. I inspected the tines. Bark could still be found in groves of the antlers. I looked over the body. He appeared to weigh about 165lbs. I examined the wound which was a straight shot through the shoulder and lungs. I would later learn that I also hit the heart, making for a perfect shot.
I stepped back and stared at the animal that was in an almost sleep-like pose. A wave of appreciation overtook me. I could only have feelings of thanks for the sacrifice that this deer unknowingly made. We sat and stared at the deer and I said a prayer of thanks under my breath, promising that the deerâ€™s death was not in vain. I thanked it for the meat it would provide my family.
We walked back toward the blind and decided to stay for another hour so that Triston may have a shot at the buck that he was chasing. We climbed back up into the blind and sat in excited silence awaiting the next crossing of deer. Triston used the doe bleat and the rattle bag in an attempt to attract his buck. It is always a weird feeling using game calls. I am nervous about their proficiency. You always wonder if the animal is just within hearing distance telling itself, â€œThat doesnâ€™t sound real. I am NOT going over there.â€ I always have a picture in my head of two deer elbowing each other, snickering at my call.
We didnâ€™t have to wait long until the next group of deer showed itself. Another doe wandered to the feeder and began eating corn.Â She was shortly followed by another four by four buck. This particular buck was smaller than the one I had just taken. After watching the buck for a few minutes, Triston decided to wait and not take the smaller buck.
Those two deer only hung around for about ten minutes before leaving. We waited in the blind for another hour before calling it quits. Now the task at hand was to carry/drag the deer out of the bottom and to the truck. We unsuccessfully attempted to fashion several contraptions to carry the buck and ended up just calling for the key.
I reflected on the morning as we walked up the trail to the truck. Overall, I can say it was a successful hunt. There were two goals with this trip. One, to harvest a large enough deer to provide my family and me with enough meat to help last us until the 2013 deer season. That was a success. The second goal was to film our hunt in order to create my first hunting video. We successfully filmed the hunt with the exception of the actual shot. We got too excited when the buck returned and forgot to turn on the camera.