The 2010 season was winding down. Three days left of bow or muzzleloader season to go. Lazing around the house with a freezer full of venison and a most successful season under my belt, I said “why am I sitting home on a cold Saturday afternoon with an unfilled tag still in my pocket”. With sundown at 4:30, I hurried into my hunting garb, seated 3 triple 7 pellets and a TC sabot down my Encore and was in my stand by 3:15pm. I had never shot a buck with the smoke pole, as I almost exclusively hunt with the bow, but really wanted to see it in action. New York gives us a one week muzzle loader season after everything else is done, so why not give it a go.
We have had a steady wind of 15 to over 50 MPH since the day before Thanksgiving, and today, 12/18, was the first day that it had finally laid down. All was quiet around me in the crunchy woods. The sun was setting fast when footsteps brought me to full alert. I strained to tell where and from what they came. A few yelps from a turkey set my nerves back on relax mode. I shifted my hands back into my hand warmer and stared right into the face of a buck walking right where I thought I would see a turkey flock heading up to roost.
As I moved the TC into shooting position, he locked right on to me at about 60 yards. Not moving a muscle, the buck finally decided I was just another part of the forest and took a step forward, exposing his chest. At the TC’s bark, I watched him run out of sight as a huge white cloud erupted from my barrel. It was dark and getting darker. I went to where I thought he was and looked for blood, but to no avail. My friend Mike had been bow hunting a few miles away and was there to help me by 5:30. We tried to piece the shot together in the dark, but finally decided there was no way to get anywhere tonight. As we headed off the mountain, what to Mike’s wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature blood trail on 8 tiny leaves. Buoyed by the new found sign, we searched far and wide, but very little blood was to be found. We walked off all the directions, shined our lights everywhere we could, but finally decided tomorrow morning was the only option left.
I have never felt more certain of a shot. The buck was 60 yards, my rest was a rock solid and I knew I had squeezed off. I was sure his heart was history. With little muzzle loader history under my belt, I guess this is normal that bullets blow up inside, don’t exit, and there is scant sign to follow after the shot. It’s always a long night when you leave shot game in the field. I had this strange dream that Mike was sitting in the next valley as I walked in to take up the track and coyotes where running everywhere. Sunday morning Mike went back to his bow stand and I was on the last blood spoor as the sun rose in the east. The morning light made it easy to see how we had erred just a little downhill of the buck’s actual path. This deer had dropped almost no blood, the bullet entering and doing all its damage inside. As I tracked the final run of this magnificent creature, a big red blob appeared in front of me. The picture speaks for itself. We were within 20 yards of that deer last night, but it is extremely hard to track in the dark with flashlights. I looked at the carnage the coyotes had wreaked on my buck and thought of Marlon Brando in The God Father. “Look what they did to my boy”.