It is always exciting for me to wake up on a brisk fall morning, knowing that in a short time, I will be settled in my deer stand alone with my thoughts and at peace with the world around me. I chuckled to myself, this pleasant 50-degree October day, knowing that I was not even supposed to be in this amazing stand—Stand Number 10. My hubby, Trippett, had claimed it before the season opened when it became available at our hunting club.
Nope, I was not interested in Stand Number 10, because at first glance I was certain it was home to swarms of wasps, and who knows what else, as it had been unattended for quite some time. Number 10 was hardly recognizable as a place I would want to hunt, with its dreary, faded, heavy canvas camouflage, and piles of leaves and dead insects. No way would I want to claim Stand Number 10 for the 2018 deer hunting season.
After a couple of weekends of stripping it down to its metal skeleton, working in sweltering hot temperatures and battling mosquitoes, we had the stand whipped into shape, with all-new camouflage and clean as a whistle. And not one wasp had taken up residence. It didn’t take much to realize that this perfectly situated stand, almost completely hidden, offered a lot of opportunity for deer activity, as it covered three different shooting lanes. One lane was straight ahead, and the others were to the right and to the left. Located near dense forest and dark swamp, Stand Number 10 was a perfect place for a respectable buck or two to reside.
As we applied the finishing touches, including new chairs and new mats, I could not hide my excitement about Stand Number 10. Trippett, being the ultimate gentleman, offered me “his” stand, and it didn’t take any time for me to call it my own. It is a double stand, offering a lot more room to stretch out, which works very well for me since I tend to overpack.
The walk to the stand that particular morning was a challenge. After months of wet weather, the rain had taken a toll on the shooting lanes. Six inches of water covered one lane, and it looked more like a river than a road. We typically ride the hunting cart as far as we can and then walk to our stands the last couple hundred yards. So off we went, walking in lockstep to diminish the sound of the splashing water, and trying our best not to lose our footing and not to bump the deer.
Finally, I was in my stand an hour before first light, and quite content to settle in, get quiet, and wait for movement. I listened to the sound of Trippett’s footsteps walking through the water toward his stand—Stand Number 9, located about a half mile from my stand. Soon the woods were perfectly quiet.
So there I was, feeling quite happy. After all, I had already taken an excellent buck a couple of weeks before, with a clean shot. He was a 165-pound, 3½-year-old buck with 8 points. He had walked out from the back end of the right lane where it looks just like a large black hole from my stand.
The black hole has intrigued me since I first sat in this stand. How cool is it to see movement 200-plus yards away, and you realize that a deer is coming out of the deep blackness of the woods? Is it a doe? Is it just a nice young buck looking for some action? Or, is it Mr. Big? With binoculars in my hand and my gun poised to react quickly, I felt rising excitement and anticipation, which is why I hunt. I never tire of seeing and hearing the woods come to life, and regardless whether it is a squirrel making a ruckus, an owl ruling the forest with a fierce screech, or just a bossy crow, I can’t help but smile being so close to nature.
But there was another reason why I was fascinated with Stand Number 10. The trail cameras set up early in the season showed promise of a magnificent buck in velvet in this area, one that would thrill any hunter. Would he come out of the black hole, or would he show up at one of the other lanes—left, or straight ahead? Sitting very still, I continuously scanned the left lane, then straight ahead, then locked in on the right lane and the black hole, trying to keep my movement to a minimum.
Trippett and I like to text back and forth once the darkness of the morning hour has turned to light, and with excitement, we catch up with each other, always wanting to see if we are detecting any deer activity. The morning hours slowly slipped by, and I anxiously waited, hoping that any minute something exciting would happen. I had a lot of doe activity and saw a couple of small bucks. But now, as the hours passed, our hunt was soon coming to an end, as our agreement was to hunt until 11 o’clock.
I texted Trippett and told him to be sure to check his phone before he approached my stand to pick me up, to make sure there was no last-minute text from me about deer activity. This is a practice we follow ever since he unwittingly ruined a good turkey hunt as he drove in to pick me up when I was a few seconds from taking a nice gobbler last turkey season, even though I tried numerous times to text him and call him to “stand by.”
And then it happened! Not one minute before 11, there was activity at the black hole. A doe had been feeding in the lane and, this being the rut season, I knew she would be a great decoy. I strained to see what the movement was, and I could clearly make out antlers. Since the binoculars were packed up, I picked up my rifle to scope the deer, and it looked like Mr. Big cautiously coming out of the black hole toward the doe. I could see the wide spread of his antlers, and the tall tines! I grabbed my phone from my pocket. BUCK, I texted.
With not a second to spare, I picked up my rifle to take a shot at the buck approaching the doe. I knew a doe would typically run off and the buck would not be far behind, leaving me with no shot. There would be no time for a broadside shot at this buck, as he was advancing my way leaving me with a neck shot as he veered toward the doe. With no time for my heart to race, I slowly squeezed the trigger, hoping I could make this difficult shot. Thankfully, the buck went down.
“Dropped’, I texted Trippett. He heard the shot seconds after I first texted him BUCK, and he was on his way. As soon as he arrived, he was high-fiving me, and we walked down the right lane toward the black hole to look at my buck. What a beautiful animal! After giving thanks, we dragged the buck as far as we could, realizing fast that this was a big animal and it would require a truck to get him out of the swampy lane. He weighed in at 201 pounds and had a 19-inch spread and 8 points! He was the largest buck I have taken to date!
The lesson learned is that many hunters get out of their stands by 9 a.m., thinking a big buck is not likely to walk out in the daylight. Hunting during the rut changes everything, and I for one would sit in the stand for hours on end, alone with my thoughts and at peace with the world around me.
As Written For Waccamaw Outdoor Magazine December 2018 Issue