I’ve written a many-a big-buck success story in my day, and asked many of the same questions. What was the weather like? Tell me about your stand. What kind of bow or rifle were you shooting? Did you have history with this deer? How far did he go after the shot?
A question I’ve never thought to ask, though, is, “Did you steal this buck from your wife?”
Maybe I should start asking it. Because by George, it’s one effective hunting strategy. You can look at my buck in this photo and video here for proof.
To set the scene, the Brantley crew – my wife, Michelle; brother, Matt; and my dad, Jim – were at the family farm over the weekend for Kentucky’s two-day early muzzleloader season. The going was tough. Hansen, as you may have read in the past, says that there is no such thing as the October Lull, and numerous deer biologists agree with him. Evidently the deer on our place do not read Hansen’s blog posts. Probably because he’s a Yankee, talks funny, and they’re inherently suspicious. They have themselves a nice, long lull every October.
Matt saw a fleeting glimpse of a spike on Saturday afternoon, and that was the extent of the activity that entire day. But Sunday morning was forecast to be cold and clear, and so we began making our plans.
Dad’s plan was simple. He was going to sleep in, and further instructed us to be quiet as we were getting ready so as not to disturb him. Matt was going to stick with the stand he’d been hunting. Who knows, maybe he’d see that spike again.
Michelle wanted to hunt the box blind near camp. Her box blind. It’s labeled as such. On the inside wall of the stand, it says, “Mish’s box blind.”
But, I told her that the ladder stand up in the timber would be the better bet. It hadn’t been hunted all season, and the deer didn’t seem to be on the fields right now. I’d take one for the team and hunt the box blind myself. We’d hunted it on Saturday morning and evening both, and hadn’t seen a deer.
Michelle wasn’t crazy about this idea. Mainly because it would be cold in that ladder stand. But she reluctantly strapped herself in 30 minutes before daylight, just about the time I was situating a pillow for my neck in the corner of the box blind.
The sun rose and began burning the light frost off the food plots in front of me. I heard a few distant shots on the neighboring farms, but all was quiet on the Brantley front. Michelle got to see some turkeys from up there in the ladder stand. I didn’t even see them.
Matt texted me at 9 to say he was giving it 30 more minutes. I’d about had enough myself. I put my phone down and briefly contemplated eating the granola bar that’s been riding in my pack since last October. I decided against it, in favor of letting it season another year.
And then I looked up and saw it. A deer. A real, live one. With antlers. Running balls-out from the neighbor’s farm, straight toward the box blind. I caught a profile glimpse of him, and decided he was certainly big enough for me. I stopped him and shot him through both lungs. When I walked up to him, I found myself making a strange, nervous chuckle. He was a touch bigger than I’d thought. Sucker had bases big around as Miller High Life cans. It hit me: Michelle would soon be seeing this deer, and would put it together that perhaps if she'd sat that stand as requested, she would've gotten a shot at this fine buck. This would've been a good year for it, too, since she's been hard after it since early September and has yet to even fill a doe tag.
Fortunately for me, Michelle is a seasoned hunter and saw the humor in the situation. She looked at my buck and said, “Congratulations. $#&%@!.”
My buddies at Hinton’s Archery and Taxidermy Shop were admiring my deer and laughing at the story. Dan, one of the regulars, said, “Hmm. That little woman of yours seems like she’d take her revenge pretty seriously. I’d be careful for a while. Might ought to take her out to eat or something.”
Of course, in all seriousness, Michelle wasn’t actually mad. She and I are hunting partners, not guide and client, and like any good set of hunting buddies, we lay it on thick when the other is due for some teasing.
Just to be safe, though, I’ll probably be doing some extra scouting in the coming days. And packing her climbing stand for her. And maybe field-dressing her deer, if she kills one. And keeping the complaints to myself when she wants to touch up her makeup for a photo.