It all started on Dec 15 2007. The first day I got out to hunt. The muzzleloader season actually opened the weekend before, but I was unable to hunt due to a prior engagement. I was already off to a bad start missing the opener. But there I was expecting the easiest deer hunt of my life, I would soon find out how wrong I was.
This was my first ever muzzleloader hunt. I had owned a .50 cal. Hawken for several years, but I had never even fired it. I didnít even know how to load it. So I consulted with some of my friends about the right amount of powder, what kind of bullet to use, if all of my 12 year old supplies would still work and a variety of other topics. After all of this I decided to give this primitive way of hunting a try.
I was convinced I had loaded the gun correctly, although I had some doubts. I had purchased the gun from the father of a friend who was much better at taking diligent care of firearms than I. So I decided not to sight the gun in figuring it would still be accurate from the previous owner. And if anything should go wrong with that first shot, I wanted to be at least shooting at a deer rather than just a target. Good thinking right.
Before I left the house that first evening I said to my wife ďPray I donít blow my head off.Ē Reassuring I know. I got to my ambush spot about 1 hour before legal shooting hours expired. The temperature was 2 degrees F. On my walk in I chased out 3 does, which were my main pursuit, I had applied late for my permit and was left with a South Dakota antler less license. Off to a good start on my first night of hunting. I had been sitting for around 35minutes and had not seen a thing. My legs were starting to cramp so I decided to stretch them out. I had just leaned back when I looked forward and noticed four ears pointing up 40 yards away. BUSTED! Two deer were returning back to their bedding grounds down the trail I was sitting on. Needless to say I did not get a shot and went home disappointed. I tried the same spot the next night but did not see any deer.
A few days later I went to hunt on some ground that I had seen a few deer on while I was trapping. This land consisted of a large tree strip with a cornfield nestled in the middle. Perfect right. Wrong! When I arrived to begin my hunt I was greeted by several cows, who had decimated the cornfield and all of the underbrush in the grove. I decided to try somewhere else. No luck.
I tried hunting again the next afternoon in temperatures hovering near -10 degrees F. To my amazement I did actually see a few deer that day. I guess they had about as much sense as I did. None of them presented a shot, so maybe they had little more sense then I.
I sat in the frigid temps after work for the next couple weeks without much activity. I would see an occasional deer, but never got one into my range. However, I had high hopes as we were going to the Black Hills of South Dakota over the New Year to celebrate Christmas at my brother and sister in laws home. I had been there before for a couple of turkey hunts, during which we watched deer after deer walk by. So I was convinced I would be bringing venison home. My family arrived a day earlier then the rest of the guests, so I would have a full day to hunt. My brother in law would be my guide and chauffeur during my hunt. He had done some scouting before my arrival and knew exactly were I would hunt. We embarked before sunrise the next day, so I would be in position when I could legally shoot. We had about a 20 minute trip to our destination. When we arrived it was 1 minute past shooting hours. As my brother in law stopped his truck to let me out I noticed 3 deer standing 100 yards down the hill from the road. I decided to try a shot from that distance. I took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. BANG! I missed. But I did not seem to startle the deer who just stood there looking at me. Now I know why guns were invented that could take multiple shots without reloading. I began the daunting task of reloading while the three deer just wandered away. I sat near a brush pile in the National Forest for approximately 45 minutes while my brother in law tried to push any remaining deer toward me to no avail. We got back in the truck and proceeded to do some driving down some of the many logging roads.
The forest was being actively logged at the time and we discovered a couple of fresh branch piles. These fresh piles were quite aromatic and seemed to attract the deer. Being from eastern South Dakota and hunting corn fed deer most of my life, I canít figure out why a deer would eat pine needles. Necessity I guess. Anyway, it was decided that after a brief relaxation period we would jump some of these branch piles. Sometime later we arrived at the first one. We drove a little to close to it. I estimated 20 deer were standing around the pile. After a small but frantic chase and a lot of heavy breathing on my part, no shots were fired. We moved on to the second pile. We stopped the truck quite a bit further away this time. I was slowly sneaking around the pile when I heard the distinct snort of a whitetail who had busted me. Shortly after I saw 5 to 6 deer trotting away from me at 20 yards. One stopped at 50 yards and gave me a quartering away shot. Again I took careful aim, squeezed the trigger. BANG! Missed again. It seemed to be a longer walk back to the truck then on the way in.
My brother in law was waiting in the truck. After finding out the details he suggested maybe I should sight the gun in. Well I hadnít blown my head off yet, so what the heck! I reloaded, found a tree with a large red mark, backed up to 30 yards and let her fly. I was 3 inches low and a little to the right. No wonder I missed. Now I knew where to aim the next time. We planned to return in the morning, however my wife had other plans. She reminded me that we were there to celebrate Christmas and not to deer hunt. So after much begging on my part I celebrated instead of hunting. I wanted a deer that didnít taste like a pine tree anyway. At least that is what I told myself.
Back to the eastern half of the state. I had some time after work to hunt. The wind was out of the south and I had a large grove with a two track going through the middle that was perfect for such conditions. There was a tree stand just off the trail and I decided to sit in it. There were a lot of tracks in the snow, so I had high expectations. I had been sitting for almost an hour, I had spotted one possum but no deer. Suddenly, I heard heavy footsteps coming up the trail behind me. Being sure it was a deer, I slowly eased my way into position for a shot. What I discovered was two people on horseback. We exchanged pleasantries and I went home again disappointed.
A few nights later I was back to a favorite spot. After a long cold wait, I spotted movement 35 yards off. I watched as a little buck stopped broadside at 25 yards and stood there for what seemed like an eternity. Remember I had an antler less permit. No other deer showed up that night.
Several days later, after spotting some deer out of range on different occasions, I was back in my favorite spot. Without much hope and time running out on my season, things started looking up. It was 7 days before the close of the season and I had 7 deer coming down the fence line I was sitting in. It was -3 degrees F but I had forgotten about the cold when the deer moved to within 30 yards. I picked out the biggest doe and waited until she stopped broadside at 25 yards. I took aim and squeezed the trigger. POP? The percussion cap went off but the gun didnít fire. Now I donít know if you have ever seen a deer laugh, but I thought they were all going to start rolling on the ground. After their little chuckle they all walked off and I went back to the truck. I grabbed another cap and fired into a brush pile. BANG! No problems firing this time. I went home disappointed. Seeing a pattern? Iím beginning to think deer are smarter then me.
With no real happenings in the days to follow I was down to THE LAST DAY. It was January 31 2008. I skipped out of work a little early, I went back to my favorite spot. I snuck down the fence line and got into position. It was about 4:30 PM and I was ready. I had not seen deer in this spot until at least 5:30 any of the nights before. As I checked the time it was 5:03, I spotted movement up the fence line. I could tell it was a doe and she had friends. As they approached 85 yards I could count nine. If they continued on their current coarse they would come to within 5 yards. I had an opening at 20 yards and decided I would take one there. As they got to around 40 yards, my heart was pounding. All at once the neighbors grandson started blowing on his duck call. He needed a lot of practice. It sounded like he was squeezing the head off a cat. The deer decided to turn tail and run. Did I mention I was getting used to this disappointment thing.
I have never been a quitter, so I decided to stick it out until last light. I had until 6:02 to get a deer. At 5:37 I noticed a deer coming back down the fence line. I was about to take a 75 yard shot when I noticed that it was the whole group coming at me again. They were getting back into that 50 yard range and the next thing I know all I see is white flags running away. I turned around just in time to see the neighbors grandson walking along the edge of the trees. I donít remember doing anything to offend the man upstairs, but I guess I must have. I think next year I will skip the disappointment and wait until THE LAST DAY to go hunting.
Edited by Budman (02/26/08 09:16 PM)