I have hunted basically my whole life.
Some how, for one reason or another, I have never connected with a buck. I can only recall deciding to shoot at bucks 3 times. For instance, I remember missing (at least I think I missed, my dad told me i shot it, but I never believed him) a small buck when I was 11 or 12-ish, only for my dad's follow-up shot to drop him in his tracks with his SS Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM that is now mine (and which will return to the story in a moment or two). Fast forward to three years ago, I took my first bow shot at a small buck and shot over his back (thankfully I missed, he would not have met AR, deer fever got the best of me).
Moreover, not connecting with a good buck has not been for lack of trying, and I've taken countless doe in the meantime. I let the biggest deer I have ever seen walk... twice... as it never presented me with a shot I was comfortable with. Sure, I could have slung a bullet through the twiggy bush it stopped behind... twice... and hoped it hit the mark, but I can't, won't, or whatever, take a shot I cannot ensure has the best possibility of being a clean, ethical harvest.
So, no bucks for me, not until this weekend. I planned a trip for myself, and my FIL ended up joining in on it as well. Shortly after sunrise Sat morning, a doe popped out and I shot her. After we got done taking care of her and got back out in the field, my FIL shot a odd little buck with one palmated horn with 4 small points and no horn on the other side. The rest of the day we did not see much movement. As the sun was going down, of course, the deer start moving again. I shot another doe, and we tried to get my FIL on a small buck, but it never presented him with a good shot... well it did and he wasn't ready, but that's another story. So day one, two doe and one small junk buck for the two of us. We saw many deer Saturday and an absolutely stupid number of small illegal bucks (AR county) that we had to pass on.
Sunday morning we got back out in the field around 5:30. Laid down in the dirt and took a 30 minute snooze. Woke up and got ready for LST. Expectedly, the deer were moving a bit slower Sunday morning after pressure from the day before. Around 8 a buck stepped out. We had unofficially decided that, if a doe came out, my FIL would shoot, and I would shoot if a buck stepped out. After looking him over, he was an 8-point that looked great and his rack was well outside of his ears. Legal. That's a good start. And here's where the story comes full circle. My dad died when I was 15, and I inherited his SS Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM that I mentioned above. For whatever season is in swing, I take one of dad's guns out for the opening weekend. So, for dove, his old 870 gets the first action every season. For deer, naturally, it is his Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM that gets to bark. True to tradition, it was in hand for all of opening weekend. I decided that, though the buck was younger and by no means a monster, he was going to be my first set of antlers. He was also going to be the biggest buck that Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM had ever harvested (dad usually hunted with a Rem 700 30-06, that my brother inherited). As I prepared for the shot, I'm sure I thought something profound and all wisdom-like, but I can't remember. I lined everything up and pulled the trigger. I rushed the shot a bit, but I clearly saw the buck hunch up. As he hopped over a small fence and ran into the woods, I got nervous and let another shot fly - stupidly - wildly in his direction. In the aftermath, I tried as sufficiently as possible to replay the event in my mind. I knew he had hunched up with the first shot, so I was pretty confident it was a good hit. I was still nervous, though, as most of my deer drop in place. I let him sit for 15 or so minutes, and my curiosity got the best of me. So, we went to look for blood. I had shot a deer the day before in roughly the same place, so there was a good bit of blood on the ground from that kill. After a few moments of searching though, I found what was clearly fresh blood, and slowly followed it to the fence the buck jumped over after the shot, and a short ways past the fence. Where he ran into the woods, the elevation begins to drop, so I could not see whether he went down or kept running from where I took the shot. Once I got up on the blood trail a ways, though, I looked up and could see him laying there, dead to the world. Almost three decades of being in the hunting world, and finally my first buck.
Dad never actually got to see me shoot a deer; he died before I ever connected. Nevertheless, he and his Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM are out there with me every opening weekend, living life to the fullest. He's long gone and that's fine, but my memories are as strong as ever. It simply would not have been right with the world for my first buck to have been taken with any of my other rifles. No way, no how. It had to be dad's; it had to be his SS Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM. I'm proud; I certainly know he would be.
Now on to the next stage for me and my
Win 70 Classic BOSS 300 WM- the animal that always eluded dad - ELK.