The big buck seemed to suddenly appear out of the undergrowth, just his chest, neck, head, and antlers visible at the edge of the clearing. The wind was from me to him, so I reckon he scented me as he emerged, causing him to abruptly halt and scan the woods. Whilst he scanned to his left, I eased my Remington 30/06 up and slid the safety off. He obviously caught some of the motion, for he raised his head back to better eye my stand, his horns shining brightly in the sun.
Those antlers were extra white, polished by his activity I had seen on earlier hunts where he had attacked every little cedar tree within a couple hundred yards of where he now stood staring at me. His head went further up, and I knew I’d been made, but the crosshairs of the 2&1/2 power scope had already settled on the white spot where his neck centered his great chest. I pulled the trigger.
At the rifle’s roar, the buck whirled and disappeared into the foliage from whence he had partially emerged seconds before. I didn’t even pump the gun, slinging it over my right shoulder as I evacuated my stand. Out of several hundred deer I have killed, I’ve seldom had to shoot twice at one. Old One-Shot Bob.
Which had worked against me earlier that morning, just as it began to be shooting light. A big buck – he had to be, for me to see horns in the dimness – had stepped into a clearing and walked calmly across, as I raised my rifle, aimed at his front shoulder, and pulled the trigger. He paused briefly, then continued his walk and disappeared into the trees, apparently unhurt. I waited a few minutes for full shooting light, then got down and looked carefully for blood, hair, or any sign that I had hit him, continuing the search for half an hour, first at the spot where I’d shot, then the direction he had gone, then half-circles from where he’d disappeared. Not a sign that I’d hit him, which was unusual.
Then I remembered that, as I was going into the woods in the darkness, the top sling swivel had popped aloose – second time in 25 years – and while I had felt it go, and had managed to catch the rifle by the pistol grip, the barrel still took a nasty whack on a cypress knee. Maybe the scope was affected by that?
Nor was there blood or hair where this buck had been standing, so I followed the direction he had been going as he disappeared into the undergrowth, moving slowly and quietly in case he was wounded and down. That seemed to be the case, sure enough, for 75 yards further along, I suddenly saw antlers stick up, then go back down, only maybe 40 yards ahead. I eased to the side for a clearer view and stepped up on a log, raising my gun to look through the scope. Now I saw the antlers rise again, then go back down. I resolved to try a killing shot at the top of his neck next time he raised his head. He did, and I did. The Remington spoke again, and that part of the woods exploded with deer!
Two more bucks, both smaller than the white-horned deer I had shot at, had been standing in a little swag I’d not known about, with several does in whom they were apparently expressing a carnal interest. I thought I was finishing off a big wounded buck, not firing a warning round over a whitetail orgy! I was not ready for a small herd of deer to flush out of the swag and disappear into the brush.
Had to be the scope, I knew. I unloaded the rifle and left the woods, but when I got home I stepped into the backyard first and fired at a water bottle I set up on the Mammy Grudge ditchbank. Sure enough, at 20 yards, I was shooting 6 inches to the left! I reset and sighted in the scope, convinced I had missed 3 bucks.
And kept my mouth shut about it for a year.
Then I was hunting the same stand last week, and when I came out, followed a scrape line in a different direction than I usually take. That big white-horned buck had 10 points. He had circled, not gone straight, and was 50 yards from where I shot him. His backbone was still intact, a very long spine. Big Buck.
Follow up. Every shot. I didn’t, and wasted a 10-point buck. A sin.