Just when you think you’ve got it figured out

It’s a decent buck, but also Dad is at the point that I’m sure he’ll shoot any legal buck. He pulls the rifle up and I watch the buck cautiously ease behind a big Russian olive tree. “I can’t see him, where’d he go?” Dad asks.
“He just went behind that tree, I can see him through the branches. He’s gonna step out, get ready”
The buck steps out to the right into a small opening and I make that classic “MRAAP” grunt type noise that all of us hunters make. It works perfectly and the buck stops broadside, looking in our direction. Time seems to stand still as I anxiously watch through my binoculars. I hold my breath and expect to see the buck crumple.
After what felt like an hour the buck anxiously walks behind a tree and then out into another small opening. What the heck??
I grunt again, and this time the buck is on high alert but he makes the mistake of stopping one more time.


Again I hold my breath, and again no shot!! The buck trots away into thick cover and out of our lives.

In my mind I’m overwhelmed with confusion and frustration, I want to yell at the top of my lungs WHAT THE F&$@ JUST HAPPENED?? Instead I just look over at dad and attempt to stay calm. I’m sure my face looked like this though:
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Dad is livid. He knows he just blew his one chance after 3 days of hard hunting. He snaps branches, he throws his hat, he curses everyone and everything within a 10 mile radius.
 
Once the temper has settled I ask (because I can’t help myself): “WHAT happened?”
Well, the short answer is that dad’s scope was turned down to the lowest zoom power. Now, you’d think at 60 yards a guy might still be able to make that shot… but it was also low light and dad’s eyes aren’t what they used to be.
Damn, what a bummer. Dad is pretty disappointed but we’re eventually able to make light of it, and I joke about how I should push him out of the tree for not making that shot!

Unfortunately after that morning I wasn’t able to keep hunting. But dad was determined to keep after it. He would stay that night, then come back a few days later for 2-3 more days.

That night I harassed him constantly with text messages. He ended up seeing 3 does but no buck. He was heading home empty handed 😔
 
Dad went home for a night but was back out and hunting the next day. He made a little tree seat to expand his options of what trees he could sit in.
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Unfortunately it brought him no luck. 2 mornings, 2 evenings, 0 deer.
He pulled the tree stands he set before season and we started talking about how he might be done.
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Over the next few days dad was considering not going back out. I stayed on him and told him about the “cold snap” that was coming and how it’d definitely get the deer moving. In reality it was only a 5 degree temperature drop, but I didn’t want him to give up!!

After a few days of persuasion he gives in and heads back out. Morning 1 he sits the north end where we saw the buck. No deer. But he pulls a camera from the south end and finds this.
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That’s encouraging! Even if he’s moving at night.
 
Over the next few days dad was considering not going back out. I stayed on him and told him about the “cold snap” that was coming and how it’d definitely get the deer moving. In reality it was only a 5 degree temperature drop, but I didn’t want him to give up!!

After a few days of persuasion he gives in and heads back out. Morning 1 he sits the north end where we saw the buck. No deer. But he pulls a camera from the south end and finds this.
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That’s encouraging! Even if he’s moving at night.
Does that buck only have 3 legs? I know the picture is a little blurry but I don’t see the other front leg.
 
Mid-day/evening 1:

Another strategy we’ve had success with in this area is doing deer drives. Since there’s only 2 of us we have to drive small areas of cover, but in years past we’ve had good success and the blocker is usually in a position to get a shot at deer about 50% of the drives. Well, that was NOT the case this year. I won’t bore you all with the details, but day 1 we did a lot of walking and dad only caught a glimpse of 1 deer.
As the afternoon wore on we decided to do one last drive on an island that almost always holds deer. Dad heads off, I give him plenty of time to get in position, and then I start pushing through the cover. I’m seeing lots of fresh sign and expecting to hear a shot at any moment.
Nothing. I reach the end of the island and I’m looking around but not seeing dad. Wtf he should be right here? I then spot him, 100 yards off to the East facing the wrong direction 🤦‍♂️ we discussed the cover I’d be pushing through and the possible escape routes and I guess we were on different pages because there was no chance he would’ve seen anything, even if there was 30 deer on this island.
Oh well. Time to find somewhere to sit for the evening. We start walking into the wind and find a good stand of cover. I say, hey let’s watch this spot. Dad says no, and that he already walked through there. What? When? Why?
Well now you’ve got to understand that dad is a bit paranoid at times… you could say that his paranoia has been thoroughly “baked” into his brain over the years.
He then proceeds to tell me about how he saw a truck in one of the parking areas while he was looping around the island. For some reason he thought they were following him and trying to “steal” his hunting spots. So he raced off through the woods and took some crazy roundabout path to get to the spot he sat. And raced through a bunch of good deer bedding areas. I just busted out laughing! I wish I had a tinfoil hat for him at times like this.
We found a tree to climb into and sat that evening but didn’t see a thing.

I think we have the same dad. There's a guy that lives next to an area we hunt. My dad swears up and down that guy watches him with his binos while we are hunting. I told him that guy can't even see us from his dam house. Dad thinks the guy sneaks down along the fence line and hides to watch him. OMG
 
That night he heads to the South end, and shortly after dark sends me this:
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He got it done!
In his words:
“I was all the way on the south end. I was thinking if he’s on my side of the river I’ll shoot him. I was in a tree looking out over the river. Shooting light, almost, out come the deer. Other side of the river. Dang, small buck too. Suddenly, the buck turns and runs straight to the river, straight across from me, in the open. His feet were in the river. 50 yards braced on a tree branch. Bang”
I’m so excited for him! I offer to drive out and help with the packout but he’s confident he can get the buck out pretty easy.
Here’s another picture from the next day. IMG_0514.jpegA few things I learned from this hunt:
1. No matter how sure I am that I’ve got a hunt all figured out, I probably don’t. Hunting is hard and each year presents its own new challenges.
2. More cameras set farther ahead of the season would’ve been helpful.
3. Weather is important. Warm sunny days often mean minimal deer movement.
4. If someone tells you there aren’t any animals in an area, there are probably animals in that area.
5. Stay persistent and keep a positive attitude. Quitting after that frustrating morning when the buck got away would’ve resulted in an unfilled tag.
6. Cherish the hunts with family. Dad’s clearly getting older (years ago he would’ve never made a mistake like he had with the scope) and it’s hard to say when he could hang it up for good. I hope he hunts till he’s 90, but everyone stops at different ages.
I wish I could’ve been in that tree with him when he pulled the trigger.
 

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