By pro baseball player, Chase Lambin
For the morning hunt, Shane decides to hunt the new stand we just put up the day before overlooking the ravine between the CRP and corn field. I get safely settled into the rickety old stand and wait for the sun to rise. The weather is still warmer then we would like, but I am feeling optimistic.
At first light I start to see deer moving through the CRP field. I see dozens of deer cutting in and out of the high CRP field grass. Only one doe came within 100 yards and instantly busted my position. (I must have stood out like a sore thumb since the sun was rising directly in my face and had no tree cover to obstruct her view.) I have a staring contest with this doe for 20 minutes and realize this stand is much better suited for shotguns. I figure I would have no chance to stand and draw on a buck considering this doe had me pegged from 100 yards away. I decide to make a bold move and change locations.
Right as I get back on the ground I receive a text from Shane. “BBD! BBD! Nice eight point!” (BBD means Big Buck Down). Alright, we have horns on the ground! I text him back and tell him I’m moving for the rest of the morning hunt. He says he is going back to the Mouse House to wait for me because he needs help loading the deer. I call him a pansy. He assures me he needs help.
I quietly creep to a new leaner stand about 100 yards south of the “gap” stand, deeper in the thicket where a lot of the deer had been escaping out of range from the “gap” stand. Within minutes of setting up I hear a grunt back behind me. Seconds later I hear branches breaking, I turn around to catch a glimpse of two does darting through the brush about 20 yards behind me. Right on there heels is a buck! I throw up my binoculars in time to see a crab claw on his right main beam. I recognize that rack. It’s the wide nine that I’ve been dooped by all weekend. I reach for my bow, but by the time I get it ready they are all about 60 yards away and shielded by dozens of trees. I watch helplessly as they jog away. I pray they loop back in my direction.
Wouldn’t you know, ten minutes later I see a deer bobbin through the thicket straight ahead. There comin’ back my way. I stand up and sure enough, there’s Mr. Wide Nine runnin’ full steam ahead, chasin’ the does. I clamp my release and try to visualize where they will pass me and where my best shooting lanes are. As the doe gets closer she veers slightly to my left through a lane that is in range but I’m not sure exactly how far. I reach for my range finder in my safety harness pocket and range the lane at 40 yards; I put the range finder back in my pocket just as the buck is approaching the lane. As I lift my hand out of my pocket I look down at the doe, which I had completely forgot to account for in my excitement, and she is 10 yards in front of me and looking dead at me! She must have seen my hand move or noticed something amiss because she started to back up from where she came, spun and bolted away from me out of the thicket into the corn field with Mr. Wide Nine loyally following behind. I blew it! If I would have just let the doe pass by and waited for the buck to come right to me, I would have had a chance to draw down on him. I melt back into my chair; put my head in my hands, and wonder what could have been if I had just shown a little more patience.
I make the long walk back to the Mouse House, going over and over the chain of events that just transpired. I give myself a pep talk and remind myself I have four more hunts, plenty of time to catch a break.
I barge into the Mouse House and give Shane a big high five. He tells me all about the buck coming straight up the ravine and stopping broadside at ten yards. (I guess we picked the right tree) We hop in the deer cart and book it over to the new stand. He shows me where he shot the deer and we start to walk straight down a very steep embankment. (I’m still not putting it all together that this deer has to be dragged back up from where we just came.) The blood trail is thorough and there, lying at the furthest possible spot longitudinally from ground zero, is Shane’s buck. It’s a beautiful, mature, Midwest river bottom brute. I high-five Shane, again and admire the mass of this beast he just slayed (had to be pushin 300 lbs.!). His face, neck and chest more resembled a dang horse than a deer. (This was my first time seeing a Midwest buck on the ground. I’ve done most of my whitetail hunting in South Texas, so I was completely unprepared for the girth of these Illinois bucks.) We spend about ten minutes conducting a mini photo-shoot, snapping pics as Shane and I lift his heavy head and document the fallen beast.
Once the photo shoot was over, reality sinks in as we start to plan our assent. We had brought rope, so I say, “Let’s just wrap the rope around his antlers, throw the rope over our shoulders and start diggin up the hill. Should be cake!”
We do just that and on the first heave we move the deer about two inches. We try a few more angels with the rope and decide the rope is completely worthless. I’m already sweating bullets and we have moved the deer a total of five feet! Shane and I look at each other with despair. We dig deep into our college educated minds and come up with…. (Drum roll please)…nothing.
We contemplate quartering it and packing it out like a dang elk! Shane, “We aren’t packing this thing out, its only 200 yards.” (In hindsight this is what we shoulda’ done. After later describing our predicament to my wife, she calmly says to me, “Why didn’t you just put some logs under him and roll him up the hill? Or you could have tied his feet to a big tree limb and hauled him out over your shoulder caveman style?” I have no answers and regret not calling her while we were in the ravine. Obviously she has the brains in the family.)
Feeling like Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn (Dumb and Dumber), I decide pure grit and determination is the only way we are getting this thing out. No excuses, no whining, no shortcuts, just some good ole fashioned elbow grease and Texas muscle.
We roll up our sleeves, spit in or hands and get to work. I grab the antlers and Shane gets the hind legs. We map our course and start to heave hoe. I grab the rack, and on the count of three, stand and fall backwards while Shane grabs the urine drenched hind quarters and does an offensive linemen blocking drill maneuver where he lifts and drives the back side of the deer up towards me, landing on top of the buck on each push. We repeat this maneuver over and over again.
After about 30 minutes we have traveled a grand total of 50 yards. We are sweatin’, gruntin’, spittin’ and cussin’. We switch sides and its time for me to bath in the urine of a fully mature rutting buck. I lift and drive while Shane lifts and falls. We take periodic breaks to catch our breath and plot the shortest route possible to the cart. After about an hour and a half, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I tell Shane to drive the cart over to the edge of the thicket. We tie the buck to the cart and drag him out the last 20 yards and he is finally on flat ground!
Our celebration is short-lived as we both realize the bed of the cart is about 3 or 4 feet off the ground. Son of a b*****. I jump in the bed, reach down and grab the antlers. I pull up with all my might as Shane gets under the deer in an Atlas position and hoists the buck up onto the back of his neck and into the bed. Just as the buck is almost safely in, it begins to slip out (since it is a too big for the bed of the cart.) Shane does a drop step and Goldberg’s the deer in the ribs, driving it back up into the bed, saving it from slumping back to the ground. Shane simultaneously grabs some tie downs and ties off the buck as we struggle to keep the behemoth from slipping out again. We finally get him securely in the cart and we both slump to the ground gasping for air, too tired to even high five.
For the evening hunt I choose to hunt the same stand that Shane just killed the buck out of. This decision was obviously effected by fatigue. Needless to say I sat in that stand for four hours and saw a grand total of two squirrels. I coulda’ sworn I was a better hunter than that.