Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday: Buyer's Remorse

My buddy, John LaRue and I headed out for a little meat hunting this morning. The goal for this year's deer hunting was to go after a big mule deer. I did that. I missed. So at some point the goal changes and I just want some venison for the freezer. I have my little go-to spot on a former client's ranch who has been very generous in letting me out for some whitetail hunting. I'd much rather eat whitetails than mulies so if I'm just meat hunting, I look for these types of opportunities. The property doesn't get much pressure so although it's not always a slam dunk, it's pretty close. The thing is, you also have a chance of shooting a monster. 

The plan was to head northwest from the truck, up a side-hill and then drop down into a shallow coulee close to where Jill shot her big buck last year. On the way, we would glass some coulees to the southeast and try to catch something bedded down. The wind was howling so we figured the bucks would bed down in the low spots and we'd have plenty of noise cover to make a good sneak. We got a hundred yards from the truck and that plan changed. 

John spotted a buck sky lined to the west and as we watched it drop down over the ridge and into that coulee, we made the move. 

We knew it wasn't a huge buck but it's that time. I just needed to get something down. So you ask yourself, "What's the criteria for shooting something?" 
A couple weeks ago, it was size first and then once you determined it was a good buck, things like distance and ability to take a good shot came into play. Now we only have a couple days left in the season so time comes into play. The wind definitely has to be taken into account and whether or not you can get a good rest and fight that wind. On this day, the whether conditions were not good with wind blowing at least a steady 25 mph with gusts probably around 30. It was cool enough to not worry about wasting meat if I shot one and another huge factor on whether to pull the trigger or not is how far from the truck you are. There's always that question of, "Do I really want to work that hard for that deer?"

So we crest the hill where the buck had dropped down and looked into the coulee. It was a pretty shallow coulee that fed down to the deeper coulee which in turn, fed down to the main drainage where we parked the truck. Nothing. I edged up, closer to an outcropping of rocks, further out to a better vantage point into that side coulee and still nothing so I started glassing the main coulee and there he was bedded down 267 yards away on the edge of some buck brush. 

So here's the deal; the buck is bedded down, 267 yards away, wind howling but I'm protected by an outcropping of rocks that's giving some relief from the wind. Why is that important? At that distance, holding steady on the target is key and that's tough in the wind. I was able to get into the prone position and using a back pack for support, I had the perfect rest. I put the cross hairs on the buck and it felt good. I looked down the coulee as it fed towards the main drainage and could see my truck only about a quarter mile away. We only have two more days left in the season. This buck isn't that big and one of the antlers is busted off but it is meat and although we only had been hunting for about 30 minutes, we drove two hours to get to this place and I'm not going home empty handed. 

Another factor that weighed on my mind is that I was up in this spot just two days ago and did see a really good buck but he was on the wrong side of the fence. Other than him, it was just spikes and a bunch of does. I'm definitely not driving up here twice and going home empty. I think this is really an important factor that all hunters deal with. It's desperation. It's the idea of eating that tag and how much you really just want to be successful at harvesting something. 

I look back at John as he's glassing the deer and tell him I'm going to shoot. 

I put the cross hairs back on the buck and at that distance, hold a little high, just behind the front should and squeeze. It sounds good. The buck snaps his head around but doesn't move. I rack another shell, hold dead center behind the front shoulder and again, squeeze. 

This time the smack of the bullet hittimg the deer was unmistakable and the deer just flops over and doesn't move. I look at him through the scope and the deed is done; meat in the freezer and it's going to be an easy drag down to the truck. 

John says his congrats and I'm justifying taking an average deer for this place and seconds later, the buyer's remorse slaps me in the face as one of the crazier things that could happen, happens to us. I glance back, up the shallow side coulee and here comes two more bucks chasing a doe right past us, only 75 yards away. 

The one buck was about the size of the deer I just shot. The other...holy crap! This f^#%'n this was huge. It ran down the coulee, across the other side of the main coulee and just about had to jump over the deer I just shot. On the way, and again; only about 75 yards, he stopped and turned back to look at us. His antlers spread way outside his ears, which for a whitetail, means he was probably a good 20 inches wide. He had 5 points on each side as well that were long and tall and heavy. He sat there for about 5 seconds as to kind of gloat, I think. My tag, although still in my pocket, was already spoken for. John had shot his deer a couple weeks ago. We were tagged out and this fricken monster buck was standing 75 yards away tempting fate. Urg. 

With a flick of his ears and wag of the tail, he turned and went back to running the smaller buck off and chasing after the doe. Meanwhile, another average buck jumped into the mix and then a couple does came up out of the brush and we watched the show as they bounded up and over the skyline and out of sight. 

As the buck went out of sight all we could do is shake our heads and say, "H-o-l-y CRAP!" And then laugh...a little. I mean, what else are you going to do, right? It's hunting. We all make choices and well all have to decide at some point, to pull the trigger based on all those things I talked about--how bad do you want it and how much are you willing to work for it and are you in a position to gamble on passing another deer knowing you might not get another chance...or you might...The one thing you can't do is take it back once the gun goes off. There are no Mulligans in deer hunting.

Keep 'em where they live...

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