By pro baseball player, Chase Lambin
Up and at ’em at 4:15 a.m. I choose to go back to the stand I had moved to the previous morning. (The one where Mr. Wide Nine had been hangin’ out) I get in the stand and within minutes of getting settled in I start to hear movement through the leave covered ground. By now the sun is barely peeking over the horizon. I strain some more to see through the darkness. I finally get a glimpse of him about 50 yards away. It’s Mr. Wide Nine!
I reach for my bow and stand up. I watch the buck through my binocs as he slowly saunters right towards my stand. I see the deer really well through my Steiner binocs, but when I lower them, the deer almost completely disappears. As I urge the sun to rise faster, the deer takes his time, eventually standing broadside ten yards in front of me. I draw back my bow and like déjà vu …I can’t see my pins. I see the grey silhouette of the deer, but I am not comfortable with the shot. I cuss the sun as the deer moseys away. I watch helplessly as the woods slowly light up. I give myself another pep talk and get locked back in.
The morning continues to be pretty slow with the warm weather. After about an hour of no movement I hear something crashing through the brush. I look to my left and see four does high-tailing it through the thicket. I stand up to get a better look, and the biggest freakin deer I have seen in my life busts out of the brush with his nose to the ground chasin the does. I almost fall out of the tree as I fumble for my bow. The buck is moving too quickly and there is way too much debris between me and him. I try grunting to stop him, but he has one thing on his mind. He continues to angel away from me in a full trot as I peer at him through my binocular. WOW…what a monster! I try to count the points, but he disappeared as quickly as he appeared. My heart is pounding out of my chest. With a new shot of adrenalin, my optimism sky rockets. The big boys are movin’ and ones going to slip up and make a mistake, I can just feel it.
Within minutes I hear the tale-tale sign of a buck makin’ a rub about 50 yards straight ahead of me, shielded by a thick tangle of trees. By the sounds of it, he is really big and really aggressive. He must have torn down half that tree.
I can’t be positive, but I’m pretty sure it is Mr. Wide Nine polishing his impressive rack. My heart starts to pound. I ready my bow and picture where he will come out of the thicket. Time slows to a crawl as my body starts to quiver. I finally hear him start to tromp my way, but I also hear another noise…an unfamiliar noise. I strain my ears and hear what sounds like a truck. (Shane couldn’t possibly be coming to pick me up this early without my consent.) The sound gets louder as my mind races trying to figure out what it is. The noise gets louder and louder until I see the front end of a tractor, coming directly at me!
The farmer drives right down the edge of the cut corn field, within ten yards of my tree stand. (I contemplate drawing on the farmer and stickin him right in the neck, but instead, I watch helplessly as he roars right by me.) Needless to say, I never saw or heard the buck that was in front of me again. I flop back into my seat and cuss the person who invented tractors. It’s tough to kill a buck when all of creation is against me. Coyotes, does, the sun, and now farmers! I look around and fully expect Ashton Kutcher to pop out from behind a tree and inform me I am on the TV show “PUNKED.”
Once back at the Mouse House, I sip on a cup of coffee and try to figure out what I need to do different to change my luck. I decide I need to create my own spot, take some ownership over the pursuit of my trophy whitetail. While sitting in the new leaner stand, I scouted some trees that would be perfect for a climber stand. That way I would be high enough to not be spotted, and I could have a shot at all the deer that have passed just out of range of the “gap” stand. I run this idea by Shane and he says he will do anything to help me out.
Shane and I head into town to grab some breakfast. (I haven’t had a real shower in days and my face is covered with green and brown face paint. Needless to say, the server looked at me kinda cockeyed.) We scarf down some food and go about finding a handsaw somewhere so I can clear some limbs for my climber stand. First, we have to stop by the butcher to get Shane’s buck to take to the taxidermist. (The scary butcher doesn’t seem quite as scary during the daylight hours.) We ask where we can find a hand saw. The butcher goes inside the building and comes back out with an electric handsaw, “Just bring it back when you’re done.” (Its like in the movie “Home Alone” when the kid realizes his scary neighbor is actually really nice and generous.) We thank him and take off to drop off Shane’s buck at the Taxidermist.
We pull into the Taxi and there is no one there. (We have a deer head that needs to be refrigerated.) We head back to the Mouse House to try and figure what we are going to do. Shane grabs a beer out of the fridge and says, “I think that deer can fit in here.” He rearranges the shelves and throws the deer’s head and cape right in the middle of the fridge. Only in the Mouse House.
I decide to get in the stand early, so we immediately head out to the evening hunt. I pick the perfect tree, shimmy up, and get settled in. It is another slow evening. I see a couple doe, but no Mr. Wide Nine sightings.
I have one more hunt left. I feel like all the bad luck and near misses will lead to a grand finale, a buzzer-beater, a bottom-of-the-ninth home run. I feel optimistic that I will be rewarded with a magical hunt where I finally bag the big boy, making all the heartache and frustration worth while. I decide to hunt the same climber stand for my final hunt in the morning.
I get situated in the tree for my final hunt. My flight doesn’t leave until 6 p.m., so I am willing to sit as long as it takes. The hunt is slow. The deer just aren’t coming through my area. It might have something to do with my not showering for five days. I wouldn’t have walked near me either. I am feeling hungry and discouraged, so I tell Shane that I’m going to stick it out until 11 a.m. and that he could come get me then. (This was at 10 a.m.) Around 10:15 I start to see some deer. I see a couple does, a spike and a young eight.
Feeling rejuvenated, I text Shane and inform him I want to stay longer. I grab my phone and while typing the message I see a deer headin’ my way through the thicket. I strain through my binoculars and make out the familiar rack that has dodged me all week. It’s Mr. Wide Nine! One last shot at this monster whitetail. Surely his luck has run out and his ninth life will be his last.
I horribly go to put the phone in my pocket….and miss! The phone bangs off the base of my stand and falls 30 feet to the ground. I see the tail of the deer bounding away through the woods. (I want to punch myself in the face. I can’t believe I just did that.) I sit down and try to figure out what I am going to do. It would take ten minutes and a lot of noise to climb down the tree to text Shane, and by now I guess it to be right at 11 a.m. I don’t want Shane to worry about me and I don’t want him to walk into my hunting area either. I rack my brain and decide my only choice is to abandon the hunt and call it a day.
I begrudgingly climb down to meet Shane. He tells me I can hunt some more, but I’m too dejected, hungry, and frustrated to go on. Of all the frustrating things to happen, this takes the cake. (I just know an hour later, a world record buck with a target painted on his shoulder walked broadside five yards from that tree.) I can handle bucks giving me the slip, but to have to quite before I am ready is a hard pill to swallow.
We ride back to the Mouse House in silence. I feel dejected, I feel like a failure, but on the other hand, I feel like I had the time of my life. Only hunting can give you these two feeling at the same time. I begin to replay all the hunts in my mind. All the close calls, all the bad luck, all the near misses, all the heartbreaking moments. I find myself starting to smile. I knew I had accomplished what I wanted. I smile because I knew I had made some great memories. As any true hunter will tell you, it’s the memories, not the actual deer that we are after. We as hunters cherish the challenge and the camaraderie more then we cherish the trophy. Life is about the journey, not the destination.
See ya on down the road,