Well I did exactly every single thing wrong.
At one time, hunting for me was life. I literally took it so seriously that I would not sleep the night before. Now I actually enjoy it and take it casually. There is no competition just the oneness with the forest and the actual thrill of the hunt.
First of all I never got time to shoot my gun before going. I bought a Savage edge in .308 with the cheapy Bushnell scope mounted and boresited. I did a little backwoods boresighting (don’t ask) to confirm it. I really procrastinated. Bud’s didn’t have the gun when they actually sold it to me on Gunbroker. I had to work the weekend that I planned to go to the range and last weekend the range was closed due to quota hunts. So I went to the woods with a gun I had never shot. Stupid.
I basically walked into the woods with an unsited gun, years old camo (but definitely proper hunter orange), no cover scent, no rattling antlers.
To top that, I slept until 7 and drove 2 hours so I got into the woods about 9.
The ground was damp so I walked easily to the stand, making next to no noise. About 28 degrees but bearable. I saw no deer on my way in, which is usually a good thing.
The stand has been in place for about 10 years now and has been replaced several times but always in the same spot. The last time I hunted in that stand spot it blew 40+ mph gusts, then poured rain and then ice. Getting down was fun that time. I’ve killed 4 here and the spot where I killed this one is about 200 yards away (15 years ago!) so its a good spot.
On the way in I saw about 5 scrapes and just as many rubs.
So I get set up and I’m pointing basically north. Stupidly I sat too still and used my ears instead of my eyes. Usually a good thing to do when the ground is dry and leaves crackle. Bad to do when the ground is wet and they can sneak up on you. So I saw 3-4 faint shadows at the edge of a thicket – probably does. But they moved so quickly I couldn’t get anything in my scope. Then I noticed movement to the south. A young 8 point was booking through the woods moving directly north about 75 yards parallel to where I was pointing. He was trying to catch the does. I put the crosshairs on him but let him pass because I could tell he had potential due the rack and his size and my shot was questionable at best. So I let him be. Another hour passes and I figure I blew my chance so I got down to take lunch. That’s right-I TOOK LUNCH. One the way out I snuck past the thicket too heavy-footed and ran a huge doe out. No shot but I tried to intercept her as she passed down a valley so I hastily made my way to the ridge and kneeled and waited. But she never came through.
I was a little disappointed but I walked out and went to get lunch in town. I drove back in at about 12 and walked back to the stand. Got setup in the stand angled to the northeast to intercept along the path they came during the morning. About an hour later I heard crunching behind me. Sure enough, a deer had snuck up directly to the south side of the stand. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that it was what looked like a big bodied spike. So when I was sure he was looking away I picked myself and the gun up and rotated from northeast to west.
When I did that he looked straight up at me. I froze.
He put his head down and I could tell he wasn’t real comfortable. I laid the gun down and clicked off the safety. He heard it and lunged. I thought that was the end of it but he just picked up pace moving west away from me. I put crosshairs on him but no real shot then I lost him about 100 yards out then out of my left eye I saw him turn north. I put the crosshairs to the right of huge hickory and waited for him to emerge. I saw his head and after he took another step I whistled. He looked up.
I honestly don’t remember putting the crosshairs on him. I don’t mean in a buck fever kind of way because I haven’t had buck fever since I was about 15. I mean more instinctual. Like I did it without even thinking about it. The Savage shot so nice. No recoil at all. Great trigger for my shooting style which I hate to say is a little too much snap and not enough squeeze.
Fortuitously I kept sight of him after the shot and I thought I saw him spin toward the west. I worked the bolt and waited for him to emerge into a clearing, any clearing but the woods are so thick there really wasn’t one. So I figured being stupid and not preparing had caused me to miss the deer or worse yet, wound him and send him on his way. I wasn’t worried about tracking him. When I was growing up, my dad, brother and friends always found me when they had made a less than stellar shot. As long as there is blood I can usually find the deer.
So I marked my landmarks in my head because the woods looks different on the ground than from a stand and got down and started walking. Of course I was about 20 yards off but when I looked around I saw the deer, fell where he was shot. Not to sound gory or denegrate the death of this great animal but the woods looked like a bloodbath. I literally found blood 6 feet up on tree trunks. It wasn’t satisfaction at killing but rather that when an animal bleeds out that quickly there is less pain. I have never shot an animal with a .308 though I have owned several. I can honestly say it did as good or better job than the .270s I’ve used before.
It turned out that the deer was actually an older 6 point. He’d had a time this year. He was originally an 8 point but fighting had snapped a few tines. There was no need to poke him, his eyes were glassy. I patted him a few times out of respect and started field dressing.
I’ll spare the details except that Its been a while since I’d field dressed a deer and I screwed up just about everything possible.
So two lessons, be prepared when going deer hunting. I should never admit all the stupid things I did except it proves lesson 2. Deer hunting is not hard enough that anyone should be intimidated by it.