4:00am comes really early considering I just got off the plane from New York just a scant 3 hours ago. Brushing off the cobwebs and lingering annoyance of 4 layovers, a smile comes across my face realizing that it is finally here. Rifle season in Virginia has arrived. A quick shower, slug of coffee and I’m on the road to meet my buddy Jason Flora for a hunt at my property at Brush Creek.
Opening the gate to the property I noticed the wind for the first time. I don’t mean a slight breeze I mean full on 20-30mph gusts and oddly enough for a November morning it was hot. A quick check of the camp thermomenter confirms it. 58 degrees. Not particularly great conditions for a hunt but who cares its rifle season and if the wind and heat keeps them bedded surely the hoards of pumpkinheads will have them moving soon enough.
I decide to hunt across the creek overlooking a 30 acre section of cutover. This stand has been productive in the past and if the hunt club down the road does any drives they usually push deer through this part of my property. A couple seasons ago I was sitting on the other side of the creek and heard the hunt club guys start a drive and within 20 minutes I was staring at a 7 point albino directly under the stand I am sitting in now. As the morning wore on and without seeing anything my back was starting to kill me from the flight so at 10:00am I decided to get up and do a slow quite push towards Jason’s stand in the hope of pushing something to him. The tactic worked last year and Jason shot a nice 7 point. No such luck this time but I did find a number of scrapes and trails around the creek bottom that could be promising.
Jason and I met at the camp to enjoy a lunch of Ramen noodles with venison burger. Jason had to leave at 4:00 pm to meet some friends in Richmond so he decided to head back out after lunch while I caught up on some much needed sleep. I woke up at 2:00 pm and grabbed my gear. I decided to hunt the power line stand instead of going back across the creek. Although I had not taken a shot from the power line I know that the does were using it and the cedars around it as a bedding area. Earlier in muzzleloader I had seen a number of small bucks chasing does so I thought it could produce.
Around 3:00 I noticed a doe get up, turn around like a dog trying to make a bed and lay back down. The wind was howling and I was concerned that nothing would get up to move. Sitting in the stand with my Kimber 270WSM I would periodically aim at a tree or a leaf 100 yards or so away and see if I could hold the cross hairs steady. I could not hold steady to save my life and began to wonder if I could make a good shot if the opportunity arose. I noticed Jason packing up his truck and driving out towards the gate. After a noticeable amount of clinging and clanging of the gate he was on his way.
The sun started to set and the wind was constant. I had hoped that it would settle down but it wasn’t in the cards. Trees waving, bushes wrestling, grass dancing and then movement. At first I thought it was a branch showing its lighter side due to the wind. A quick check with my 3.5×10 Leupold and my heart nearly stopped. He was massive and moving fast through the cutover. Holding the crosshairs steady on his vitals was futile as the wind just kept whipping me around and around. After about 80 yards of following him in the scope I started to get this sick feeling that the wind was not going to let up and he would make it across the powerline cut. He was about 15 steps away from a thicket and walking slowly. I said a quick prayer for the wind to let up and settled the cross hairs as best I could. Briefly the cross hairs steadied and the Kimber roared. I caught a brief glimpse of him making it to the thicket and disappear.
To say that I was a bit frazzled would be an understatement. I quickly grabbed my gear, head light, and climbed down the ladder towards where he was standing. Normally I would not go after an animal this soon after a shot but I told myself that I would only look in a 20 yard circle and if I did not see him I would come back in 2 hours.
Once at the site I saw some blood and slowly followed its direction. Fifteen steps further my headlamp reflected an antler and I lost it. Whooping and hollering. I think I even high fived a tree. I had been a victim of ground shrinkage before but not this time. He was huge and definitely my biggest buck to date. The 163 yard shot had center punched him right behind the shoulder and the 130 grain Nosler did the rest. I was literally holding his thick bases and shaking. I will never forget that moment and thank god for the experience.
After getting him out with the atv and hanging him on the meat pole I was thinking to myself that it had all finally came together. Practicing good management by letting countless smaller bucks pass, planting over ten acres in food plots, leaving 20 acres as a sanctuary and working hard for 4 years was all worth it. A big smile. A very big smile. Good shooting.