Trail cam sighting stirs up memories of regal bucks of yesteryear
My trailcam caught him, following a doe, 10 feet ahead to his right, in my creek bottom. A mid-September buck, not yet fully amorous but starting to think about it, instinct-wise.
Still in velvet then, he by now has polished off that itchy, sloughing velvet to his eight or so points. The trailcam caught him right in front of an intervening sapling, which made counting the tips problematic.
I have watched this buck, one of two for sure that have frequented my bottomlands, for two antler seasons now. He either was the spike or the forkhorn in last autumn’s trail cam photos. So, his likely age is 2-1/2. Buttons, spike/forks, rack. I hope he avoids vehicles on the road and slugs or bullets or arrows this fall. Not because I am not shy about killing a buck. But not any buck. Not in my backyard.
It has been a while, in my 44 years of residence in what I call Froggy Bottom, since I have seen a truly regal buck. There have been a good few.
I remember the first one, early days here, when the bottomland was barely more than a recovering sheep pasture. He was out there, tending a herd of about six does, a quarter-mile behind the house – you could see all the way back to the big old now-gone ash tree across what was mostly recovering grassland. Morning sun on his great white antlers – 10, 12 points? The sight was so magnificent I remember it four decades later.
Then there was the morning, slug-gun season 35 years or so ago – early days for Ohio deer hunting – when brother Dave and I bounced two bucks and four does out behind the house. I had made a mile-long, out-and-about loop to cut off my brother’s drive. That was back when slug-guns were primitive – no sights mostly, you used the front bead, rifled slugs. Dave got a shot at the six-point with his 20-gauge no-sights pump. Missed. The shot had me on full alert. The bucks were mad in rut, didn’t care. They ran right to me. Just like we figured.
I was “advanced” as a gunner, had now-crude, clamp-on sights on the rib of my Browning BPS 12-gauge smoothbore (yes, we laugh now). The bigger buck, a huge, long- and heavy-tined 10-point, stopped dead in his tracks, 35 yards away, snorted, and looked right into my eyes.
I promptly threw three slugs his way – too fast, mesmerized by that huge rack. One of the slugs cut a sapling nearly in half in front of his chest. Alas, a miss. (I cut down and saved the sapling for a memory.) Before I could reload, the buster scampered across the creek, well out into a cornfield. He stopped about 150 yards out, again broadside, out of range for crude sights and slugs of the day. One last what-the-heck look, then gone, running a mile of open ground full-tilt to another woodlot.
Since those early buck-fever days, I have killed any hunter’s share of good bucks and more. But I will not forget the proverbial big ones that got away. If you do not have a story like these, I do not believe you. Or you have not hunted long enough.
Uh, skip big bucks taken with the clear advantages of bait, scents, and other sporting-goods crutches in this thread. I am talking mano-a-mano with the deer. You versus buck, as much as possible. This is not about technically, mechanically killing “cows” in a pasture, but the essence of sport hunting. Just saying.
The sight of that little 8-pointer on my trail cam triggered this old hunter’s foregoing ruminations. It is what causes us to do what we do when we hunt deer.