Part 2: The End of an Unforgettable Deer Season

With my truck pointed north, I’d often look up at the outdoor temperature gauge to see what it was reading. Per usual, the further north I got, the lower the temperature reading would be. However, once I was a little over half-way to my destination, it began to drop dramatically. Keep in mind, I’m wearing shorts and virtually no shoes. I expected the temperature to drop, but not before I arrived at the land. It had dropped almost thirty degrees, and I wasn’t even there yet. By the time I made it to the land to hunt, the temperature gauge was reading 35 degrees.

When I arrived at the gate, a couple of guys were already there. Among them was my friend, Brad, whom I affectionately refer to as my personal “deer skinner”. Brad brought his nephew, Rhett, with him for the evening, who is a college baseball player in Kansas. I immediately liked this kid, obviously, and was glad he was along for the trip. Also hunting for the evening was our deer camp “work horse”, McCaa Donald. McCaa did most of the food plots on the land this year, and in my opinion, were the finest food plots I’ve ever had the privilege of hunting. Each one bears resemblance to a well-manicured football field. Rounding out the evening lineup was another friend, Barrett Page, and his son, Jack. Barrett is a mountain of a man who is probably the most prepared, and well dressed, deer hunter that I’ve ever known.

As soon as I began to unload my four-wheeler, and put actual clothes on, it began to sleet pretty hard. The cold air combined with ice falling from the sky took my breath away. I hurriedly gathered my gear and made my way into the tent to change. By the time I came out of the tent, the sleet had changed to more of a wintry mix. The others went to their hunting locations in their trucks. I was going to have to take my four-wheeler to mine. This was, perhaps, the most miserable four-wheeler ride of my life. You want to go fast to hurry and get out of the weather, but going fast makes the sleet hurt when it hits your face. Not to worry, the sleet didn’t last long before it turned to big snowflakes. When I finally reached the location I wanted to park the four-wheeler in, my outer layer was pretty well soaked. I continued the rest of my journey on foot to my stand.

The wind was absolutely howling. I picked a shooting house to spend the evening hunt in, out of the elements. In order to keep the snow from blowing in the shooting house, I had to close the windows. It was bone-chilling cold. Given the conditions, I had no optimism of seeing deer. However, every single other person was seeing deer! They’d all stayed dry in their trucks and were seeing a bunch of deer. I suffered through the cold ride, I had to see deer, right? Wrong. I spent over three hours in the shooting house and only saw a few wood ducks. This just didn’t seem fair! Hunting rarely ever is.

The night was going to test my intestinal fortitude. Temperatures were supposed to be in the mid-20’s, and the wind chill was already in the teens by the time I got settled in. I made a makeshift clothesline in the tent to hang and dry my clothes with the propane heater. Snow covered the top of the tent and the wind was relentless. This was going to be the longest night ever. I don’t run my heater while I’m asleep, so that extra blanket I packed was going to come in handy. I thought the best thing I could do was go to sleep and hope not to freeze.

I awakened before daylight the next morning in the exact position that I laid down in. The wind had subsided some, but still blew enough to make it very uncomfortable. I cranked the heater up, got dressed, and headed to my stand. When daylight arrived it was cloudy and windy. I couldn’t stop shivering in the stand and found myself praying for the sun to come out. When it finally did, it was like an immediate morale boost. It also got the deer up and moving. In my morning hunt, which lasted until around 10:30, I saw a few different small bucks and a few does. Having a little meat in the freezer already, I was in search of a mature buck, so I passed on all of the deer I saw. My gut told me it was lunch so I climbed down and headed back to my tent, tossed down a sandwich, and made preparations for my final hunt.

I chose the box stand where my daughter killed her first deer for my final hunt of the season. The stand overlooks a nice food plot about 100 yards in length and 30 yards in width. I’d hoped it would be warm in the box, but the constant breeze kept it cool. It wasn’t too long before a young buck entered the plot. He had one beam that forked on one side and a nub on the other. I enjoyed watching him feed before he slipped off into the woods. As the sun began to set, more deer entered the plot to feed. With time running out on my season, I began to get restless. That’s when he showed up.

The buck came seemingly out of nowhere and began to run other deer off. I knew he had to be a mature buck. His body was much larger than the other deer in the plot, and they respected his presence. When he finally became stationary, I clicked off my safety, took careful aim, and squeezed the trigger. Just like that, for the second year in a row, my deer season was over. Unlike last year, there was no celebration at the camp. There was no “skinning party” to be had. My season ended just like it began…just me and the woods.

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