Sometimes Getting Lost Pays Off

By Ben Smith:

If you’d have asked me a week ago if I were through hunting for the season, the answer would have been yes. I’d already dropped 260” worth of bone on the ground and added a couple of does to go with them. For the most part, I was content to let the calendar run out on deer season and transition into baseball season. However, the other part of me still had an itch that needed scratching. You see, we have this little competition going on with USM Baseball to see who can lay down the most inches of antler for the year. For the last couple of weeks, they’ve been in the lead…by one average sized buck. Knowing that I could legally kill one more buck, something about that just didn’t sit well with me.

The problem that I had is that we have already started preseason baseball practices. That means for six days a week we are on the field. The only exception is Sunday. Could you imagine the ridicule I’d face for skipping church to go hunting after writing an article last year blasting parents for having their kids play ball rather than attend church? It would be something straight out of a CNN broadcast under “do as I say, not as I do.” So no, missing church to go hunting is not an option. But what about going after church? So that’s what I did.

USM, for the moment, was up about 105 total inches so I didn’t plan to be too picky. Given the opportunity, I’d gladly fill my last spot with any mature deer that could put us in the lead. My cousin, Brandon, is a Mississippi State grad so he invited me up to his place in Hinds County for the opportunity to stick a dagger in USM. We would be accompanied by our good friend, and my personal deer skinner, Brad Bridges for the evening hunt. Brandon’s wife and kids also tagged along for the trip, so we made it a family affair.

For this particular hunt, I’d brought my climber with the intention of hunting an area in the woods along a scrape line that he’d found earlier. We packed up our gear and Brandon showed me on a map a general area of where I should go. If you’ve followed along with any of my writings, you’d know I’m horrible with a map and directions in the woods. I’ve been given the name “whichaway” in the past by a friend’s dad because he said I didn’t know which-a-way I was going. My task was to drop Brandon’s daughter off at her stand and head on to my spot. After a brief scare where I thought she was dead on the floor (she was asleep), we headed into the woods. (Note: Anna Payton is a junior at Jackson Academy and involved in show choir. She’d been up very late the night before and the floor must have been appealing.)

After dropping AP off at her stand, I did my best to follow Brandon’s directions. After walking around for over thirty minutes through the thickest brush imaginable while carrying my stand, backpack, and rifle, I realized I was lost. There was one particular ridge that I’m pretty sure I crossed multiple times causing me to believe I was just walking in circles. Fortunately, I had enough service to pull up my map and get back to my starting location. Soaking wet, exhausted, and bleeding from numerous briars, I gave up on the location and went to a box stand not far from where I was. I angrily thought that I’d messed up my final opportunity to hunt for the year.

Shortly after catching my breath in the box stand, I heard all kinds of racket coming from a thicket not 75 yards in front of me. It was so thick that I couldn’t see, but I could hear more than one buck grunting. This went on for over thirty minutes before I finally caught a glimpse of what I thought was a pretty good buck. It seems that he had a doe pinned down in the thicket and two younger bucks kept trying to approach them. Each time one of the younger bucks would try and enter the thicket, the older buck would run them off. Conscience of the clock ticking, I kept looking at my watch to see how much time I had left in the hunt. If this buck was going to give me a chance, he’d better do it quickly.

Just before 5:00, I noticed a deer in the small food plot to my left. Due to the positioning of the stand and the deer, I could only see the top of its back. I knew that it wasn’t a doe, due to the size, and thought it could be an older buck by the way his back swayed. The deer made its way down the edge of the plot and finally lifted its head. He was for sure a mature buck. The next five minutes seemed like an eternity. I needed him to walk about 15 more yards before I’d have a good, clean shot opportunity. He finally got the spot I needed him to be at, and I let him have it. He all but crumbled before he bolted out of the plot into the woods.

After texting Brad, and agreeing to wait until dark to pursue him, I climbed down and went back to the truck. After everyone else was finished hunting, we all loaded up in side by sides, along with Teddy (Brandon’s dog), to go find the buck. It didn’t take Teddy 45 seconds to find the deer. I couldn’t believe it when I approached him. He wasn’t the biggest buck I’d killed this year in terms of inches, but he was absolutely the oldest. Ran down from the rut, he didn’t have a shred of fat on him. There were several different scars on him, displaying his warrior-like tendencies. This guy was an absolute battleship! At the time of writing this, I haven’t aged him yet, but he will certainly go over the 6.5 year old mark, making him the oldest buck I’ve ever killed…a true trophy.

What a way to end the season! A day spent with a couple of my closest friends and family that ended with a buck that gave us the lead in our competition. We still have a little less than a week of the competition left, and USM may beat us, but either way it’s been a blast. I’m already looking forward to doing it again next year!

(L-R) Brad Bridges, Ben Smith, Brandon Parker

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