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Tuesday night quickie ML hunt

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So I wanted to go for a little look see around home with the ML theother night. Naturally it gets dark so early, there's very little time after work. All was quiet at work so I decided to leave a few minutes early, very few. I left at 4:23 or something & we get done at 4:30. Got home 4:40ish, changed into hunting garb & headed down the driveway at 4:50. Thought I'd skirt our big pine trees to the NE, with the NW wind, take the field road along the W edge of the main woods, between that & the pines. My plan was to pussyfoot along looking for deer, then take the shoulder of the tar road along the S side of the woods & check to see if any deer came out in my neighbor's corn stubble on the downwind side of our woods. They're usually within about 100 yards of the road, so I'd pop out of the ditch at the field edge at the end of shooting light. They always come out REALLY late there anyway. There's been a doe & 3 fawns around all season & a buddy actually saw 8 deer go into my pine trees a few nights earlier.

I sneak through the pines, hit the NW corner of the main woods & start South down the field road towards the tar, scanning the woods edge & looking down the pine tree rows. It's something like 150-200 yards to the road there. I get about 2/3's of the way down, I look into the main woods & about 20 yards in I think "that kind of looks like a buck with his chin on the ground staring at me". Looks like he has a pretty nice rack, but it can't really be a deer laying that close looking at me. It's probably 5:02 or 5:03, legal at my house is 5:10 everyday through the 16th now, when it starts to go the other way. It's in heavy brush & shaded by the pines, so at this point I think I'm just getting tricked by the end of a log or something, but it really kind of does look like a deer. Then he moved, my first thought was mule deer, tall horns that made a V on his head & really white antlers. Not huge, but probably a shooter for me anytime, for sure in this situation at this point in the season. He was laying pointed straight West & on his right side. He spun his head South as he got up, actually swapping ends & angling NNE. He took a couple of short, slow jumps & stopped broadside in the heavy brush. I know he's no more than 40 yards, after looking I think probably more like 30. I can't see him well, but well enough to tell EXACTLY where he is. Of course the gun's up by now & I'm ready to snap a shot, when I realized he'd stopped, processing that there's something not right with this deer. He let me get too close & he just didn't react like a healthy, wary deer normally would. He was at least a nice 8 pointer, maybe a 10 or more. Not sure how big he was, but from the rack I'd say at least a 2.5 year-old anyway. I steadied the gun, made sure the sights were lined up & fired. He took a couple more, short slow jumps & just faded away. It was so thick & getting so dark, that I really couldn't tell what he did. He didn't take off like I'd smoked him, but I'm not sure he could. Now I didn't know what to do. My first thought was that I missed because of all the brush & his reactions. I know I was on him for sure, as I took my time & he wasn't far. I wasn't sure what to do, other than I knew I needed to reload. It took me a bit, as I was loading for only the second time all year & the first time was 10 days ago.

I finally got the stubborn bullet seated. I hadn't seen or heard anything else. I decided as slow as he appeared to be moving I should go back North towards the field of smaller trees & see if he came out there or on the logging trail along the North side of the woods, no deer there. Took a logging trail that's 80-90 yards East & runs back South looking for the deer or sign. It's really getting dark fast now of course. Took that all the way to where it comes out the SW corner of the woods near the tar & then walked back down the logging road to where I'd taken the shot. Need to go get a flashlight & look, but decided to find the bed while I could still sort of see, so I could mark the spot. Found the bed, big bed, leaves crushed completely flat, it was obvious he'd been in that bed at least most of the day, if not longer. No blood in the bed though. I searched all over, having to guess exactly where he'd been when I shot with the snow all gone now. I searched out the NW 2/3's of that corner of the woods to that first logging trail, back & forth, no blood, no downed deer. It's so thick I decided I'd darn near have to step on him in the dark. I rewalked that logging trail to the South T looking for blood then followed the South trail East to the trail that goes back North past a stand we call the skyscraper. (It's about a 100 yards.) No sign anywhere there.

I think my shot was probably deflected, but I didn't see any brush or sapling that had clearly been hit by a bullet. My initial reaction was miss, but if it wasn't deflected I'm sure I didn't miss. As we know many hits don't bleed right away & I sure didn't know exactly where he was standing. Either way, even if I didn't hit him, that deer has some type of injury making him very stiff. I have no idea if it's a fatal one or not. I decided I'd leave work around noon the next day & go look/hunt for him as I did't want to find him laying dead in the woods a couple of weeks from now when I'm cutting wood & have to second guess my decision to not look anymore. It's SO thick & it was SO dark, I easily could have missed some fairly obvious sign.

I looked for two hours the next day. As far as I could tell I didn't hit him & he apparently wasn't hurt too bad, as I never jumped him anywhere in the woods & I walked it good enough that I believe I'd have found him if he was dead. I did jump one deer, that I saw a glimpse of. I didn't get much of a view, but think it was likely a fawn, as it didn't look very big. Certainly if it was him, he was doing just fine, when he took off then. I'm not bummed I didn't get him, if he's going to be fine, it was very thick, but at close range a standing shot with a gun at a decent buck this time of year is one a guy takes.

PS- I think this is probably the buck I saw a couple of weeks ago at 6am, that I jokingly dubbed my next year's buck...

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That's tough. I carry a flashlight on any afternoon hunt, because you know how things after the shot can lead into darkness. Frist thing i do after the shot is mark my location, and walk directly to where the deer was shot. Then it's nose to the ground following foot prints. Blood will show up eventually if it is hit in any kind of fatal way.

I haven't pulled the trigger yet this deer season, but maybe saturday.

Got another weekend left. Good luck.

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Rod I feel for you, the wondering is what drives me nuts as Im sure it is you. I know how i shoot and I know when I make a good shot and when I dont. My post in the bow hunting forum tells that, I knew i had made a bad shot with my ML last weekend but mine turned out on the good end.

Hopefully you get pics of him later to know he survived and you'll have a date with him next year

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Thought maybe we'd see a buck at the end of the story. Not surprising he stayed put when you were walking. Lots of bucks will sit tight and let you walk by, when you stopped and made eye contact, he probably got nervous and decided to take off.

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