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First Blood on a New Hunting Lease

After Months of Sweat and Hard Work, I Finally Connect With a Deer.

By

Long Time Coming

This hunting story actually starts months before the action takes place. Two friends and I had gone in together to lease the hunting rights to a small piece of land in southern Georgia, and I worked steadily for six months before hunting season to improve the place.

Making camp, clearing trails, putting out feed, mowing trails, and planting food plots all added up to a lot of work and expense, but I kept hoping that once deer season opened, it would all be worth it. We'd been getting some good deer and hog photos, anyhow.

Well, archery season didn't show me much, and by the time rifle season opened I was starting to wonder about the place. But I headed on up there anyhow - I had to give it a chance. I drove up one Thursday night in late October, and on Friday morning I strapped my Summit climber to my back and headed out, toting my little Savage Sierra 308 bolt-action rifle.

Where I Hunted

I hung the stand on a small pine tree on the west edge of a grassy north-south road that runs along the west edge of our lease. To my left (north), I could see about 130 yards, to the end of the road. To my right, I could see 300 yards or more.

Almost all of the visible roadway had a 4'-5' strip along one side, planted with green stuff (mostly wheat) to feed the deer. The food wasn't in great shape - dry weather and grazing deer had been hard on it. It was no more than five inches tall at best, often shorter.

Why I was There

I had previously hunted a ladder stand at the north end of the road, but on the previous weekend I'd noticed that most of the tracks and browsing sign were beyond a slight bend in the road from there, in an area I couldn't see from the ladder. Also, the ladder stand didn't have a shooting rest, while the Summit climber did.

Putting in my Time

I sat there from 7:15 until 11:45, and saw nothing with hair. I was back in the stand at 2:40 and continued to see nothing - but with renewed hope, because I had found a photo of a nice buck on one of my game cameras located not far from there.

Action!

I had pretty much memorized the road in both directions after all those hours - all the things that look like deer but ain't. So when I looked up at 6:00 after hauling my pack up, putting on a warm shirt, and lowering the pack, I immediately recognized something different. It was a critter, way down south (to my right), and it pretty much had to be a deer.

I fumbled for my gun, which was in a holder (since I'd just added a layer of clothing), pointed the wrong way. I got the scope up and could immediately see that there were more than one deer down there. Turned out, there were two young 'uns feeding in the planted strip, and a larger doe was standing in the strip, facing and looking south away from me.

She was a little antsy, and I couldn't see very far past her, towards where she was looking. I could tell she wasn't huge, but she was the adult of the three deer. I had already made up my mind to take the first grown-up legal deer that gave me a chance.

Steady...

The deer's angle was not good - facing away from me - and she was a long ways down there. Although I wasn't going to take a long-distance going-away shot, I had to see if I could get steady enough to make a shot at that range from that stand, wrong-handed.

It would have to be a left-handed shot, because the deer were 90 degrees to my right, and my stand's shooting rest offered a steadier platform than if I'd turned in the stand and braced on the tree, right-handed. I had practiced this scenario earlier that day - but adrenaline and deer fever now had me a little shook up, and the crosshairs were dancing.

Practice

So, I practiced drawing a bead on her butt. The crosshairs kept moving, as I worked at breath control and steadying up on the shooting rest by shifting myself and the gun in tiny increments. I was talking to myself the whole time ("Get your s--t together." "Take your time, don't rush it."). Hey, I'm an experienced hunter, but I still get excited, even at the thought of taking a doe. As Dad once said, "If I ever stop getting the shakes, that's when I'll quit hunting."

I would adjust my hold on the rifle and get settled down in shooting position, then I'd start to loosen up and get shaky and I'd take my head from behind the scope to gather myself. One of the times I did that, the doe started trotting down the road towards me.

Here She Comes...

When she stopped, she was quartering towards me, not much closer than she had been, not quite broadside but good enough, with her head turned looking back down the road away from me. She kept doing that and I wondered if there was a buck coming up the road, but I decided not to wait and see. It had taken me long enough to get a good chance at a deer of any kind, so I figured I'd better make the best of it.

She stood still while I held the scope on her, braced and steadied myself, tightened up the crosshair wiggle until it stayed well within the kill zone at all times, and began to squeeze the trigger. I had to stop the trigger squeeze more than once to tighten up my aim, then continue the squeeze.

An old shooter with a shaky hand who consistently shot bullseyes once told Dad, "It doesn't matter how much you shake, as long as the sights are on target when the gun goes off." He was right, of course.

There She Goes!

Finally, my gun said BANG! and the doe left. I only saw her take a step or two before she was out of sight, but I could tell she was hit. Then she was out of sight and into the woods. One fawn followed her, and the other went into the woods on the other side of the road. The time was 6:04.

I chambered a new round and watched for a minute or so, but it was clear that it was time to get moving. I climbed down the tree, was on the ground at 6:09, and began what seemed to be a very long walk. When I was forty or fifty yards short of the spot, the fawn that had gone the other way stepped out of the woods, stood there on the edge of the dirt road, and looked at me. If I had been fast and greedy, I might have killed that deer, but I wasn't interested. After a second or two, it ran away blowing.

I found a plowed-up spot where my doe had been standing. Then I found blood in the road nearby. That made me feel a lot better, for sure.

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