Sneaking along the edge of the cornfield, the year's first snow added an element of excitement and beauty. It also aided greatly for keeping noise down to a minimum. Anticipation was building with each step as I climbed the dozen or so feet to the hang-on treestand, just as the sun peeked above the eastern skyline.
The first hour on stand passed quickly and without event. Shortly thereafter I saw a doe burst through a small opening in the corn in a panic. Followed shortly by another bigger deer in hot pursuit. For the next 15 minutes I caught brown glimpses of the two, on and off, from anywhere from 75 yards out to 150 or so. At times, I could follow them simply by watching the snow being knocked off the standing corn.
After it became obvious they were not going to pass my way, I dug into my pack and grabbed the rattling bag and grunt call. I gave a short grunt, hit the rattling bag for three or four rolling cycles through my gloved hands, followed by one more grunt.
Trying to remain optimistic, I placed the calls back in the pack, grabbed my Black Widow bow, and peeled back the flap portion of my fuzzy warm glove, to expose my leather tipped fingers in my shooting glove.
I waited for the moving avalanches of snow to head my way. No such luck.
From hard to my left and slightly behind I spotted a dark movement out of the corner of my eye coming through the snow laden woods. By the time I shifted slightly, it was through the alders and about 12 yards in front of me. At first I thought it was the large barren doe I had seen so many times already this fall. A little harder look revealed a small set of spikes. Another animal I had passed 2 times already from this same stand. He was clearly excited by the sound of the rattling. I'm sure he came more as a spectator than a participant, but regardless, he came.
I strained to look from where he had come, hoping a bigger buck would be following. In my eagerness to see better, perhaps I moved more than I should have. The spike buck suddenly jerked up and looked my way. We entered into a stare down. I was trying to hide behind the limbs of my bow, squinting my eyes, praying that would somehow make me look like less of a threat.
As young bucks often do, he relaxed despite what he just thought he saw. He was looking around for the bucks he had heard sparring just moments ago. He began to walk away, head looking all around for the sparring bucks.
I made a split second decision to take him. I drew, anchored and released almost without thought. The arrow flew true and even from a 48lb recurve, hitting only ribs, it made a complete pass through. The buck whirled and headed to the safety of the alders. With the fresh blanket of white, I could follow him easily. I saw him slow to a walk. And then, he disappeared. He either went down or turned sharply out, the one direction I couldn't see. However, if he turned out to the corn, I should have seen him after he got through the heavy cover.
I felt the shot was good. I liked the deer's reaction. I had hours of daylight ahead of me. I sat down and poured a cup of tea and enjoyed the winter wonderland in before me.
I was almost regretful. I had high hopes of arrowing a mature buck. This was my first fall on a new property I had recently purchased. Talk about mixed emotions.
I had been pursuing two heavy horned mature bucks throughout the fall. I had seen them a few times, but never bow range. But they were still appearing on my trail cams, so I knew I was still in the game.
Although deer were plentiful there, bowhunting them was no walk in the park. Nothing was for sure.
I had two tags.
I can't lie, I was eager to burn one of them on my new property.
I love eating tasty venison and so does my wife. Last years game supply was all but gone. Surely this fat little buck would eat well and provide some much appreciated meals over the winter.
The war raged in my head though. Had I just taken a deer I didn't really want, just to say I punched a tag or did I take it for the noblest of reasons - for the food it will provide ?
A week or so has passed since taking the little buck. The best I can come up with is this. We as hunters should be proud of any legal animal we are lucky enough to take. I think to be less than proud, diminishes both the challenge of accomplishing it and perhaps even the animal's death.
Conversely, the taking of a big mature animal should never be under estimated. It does in fact, provide much more of a challenge ( all things being equal) and I think the accomplishment is, and should be, considered larger.
Don't confuse that last paragraph though, it has nothing to do with me having less pride in that little buck. I treated it with the same care and effort to ensure a quality end product that I would any animal. That little twinge of sorrow I experience when taking any animals life, was just as present as if it had been a legit 160 class book buck. My heartfelt gratitude was sincere. Size mattered little when saying private thanks, to no one or nothing in particular.
After much internal debate I have decided I didn't simply just settle and kill gratuitously.
At that moment , and place, in time, it was the right buck for me....and that makes me feel ok.