- Dec 15, 2000
The Christmas Buck
It is a late November afternoon here in Bangkok and as I look out of the window at the ducks across the lake, something inside of me returns my attention to the set of tickets on the computer desk and the itinerary clearly showing the departure date. As I do almost every week, I glance at the calendar, with the same longing gaze as a child would in counting down the days to Christmas. 20 days left to go, god that seems like a lifetime !
I look again as if it will speed the days along and read, flight departure December 11th, at 05:45 from Bangkok to Tokyo, to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Savannah Georgia. I notice an entry on my booking routing me to away from my family to Traverse City Michigan. That is where my first hunt of this season will start. This year I decided to book with Mr. Jim Lefeve, owner of Record Buck Plantation in Fife Lake Michigan. This will be my first sanctuary type hunt, but as my vacation times for this year is long after the rut, I decided I would try this operation ran by a fellow SCI member, in hopes of taking a nice Michigan buck.
Deer Season has always been a major part of my families yearly tradition. From running the hounds, Bow hunting and sitting in a blind with a 30-06 or 7MM for endless hours in the cold rain waiting for the "mythical monster" that a friend of a friend has saw on this property several times but never got a clear shot.
My thoughts jump back to the present and to the 91 degree heat outside. I called a few friends back home earlier this week and since the season opened on the 16th of last month. I listen with envy to the tales of the nice 155 class buck taken by this one and the super 10 pointer taken by that one out of my old stands. I listen with the utmost of interest,but yet I am forced to hold back envy, bite my lip and just calmly respond "Good for them, I thought he was still around"!
Yes, I am sure we have all experienced this feeling on more than one occasion. Indeed envy is a common feeling for those not getting to go on the hunt while others are taking the trophies that could have been ours or were taken from our "secret hot spot". Anyway lets get to the point.
You can hunt the world over and have success with the game you choose to pursue. It may be Africa, Asia, Alaska, Canada or the Yukon, but when all is said and done, there is always a special place and type hunting that calls you back again and again.
For me this special place is a track of woods behind my home on boardering a corn field and the Savannah River bottoms. Spending 10 months of every year living in Thailand's heat, makes me long for the winter afternoons sitting in the stand waiting for the next Boone and Crockett to slip through the thicket.
Every year I return home for the majority of December and until the season ends in January, not just to hunt but to spend this special time of the holiday season enjoying the fruits of the past 10 months labor. OK, so I am not being completely truthful about the hunting part, but something about the thoughts of coming inside and sitting by the fire to shake off the chill from sitting in a tree for the past 5 hours makes me smile on the roughest of days.
The following story is from my last years December and January trip home. I expected this to be the typical come home, hunt around the house, maybe book a few days and hunt on various plantations and clubs owned by friends and family. But as you continue, you will see that this last years season was an exception to the rule.
Like other hunts in places from the jungles of Burma, the plains of Africa and the hills and muskeg of Northern Canada, this evening was one that will stay in my mind for the rest of my life.
Just a little after 14:00 on December 24th, I slowly ascended with my climbing stand up a tall pine overlooking a narrow strip of oaks the bordered a cut corn field and some of the thickest swamp that man was never designed to tread. I have hunted this same spot over the past 5 years and have spotted some decent bucks, but had never clicked off the safety.
I have always hoped that letting the smaller bucks pass would one day pay off in producing a true trophy. As I can only consume a small portion of the meat, I have grown from a meat hunter whose goal was to fill the freezer , into someone that enjoys watching the deer and seeing how each has matured during my past 10 month absence.(No Marvin I do not have them named!)
Following these methods finally paid off on this day indeed! After about 45 minutes after getting set up and as comfortable as one possibly can in a climbing stand. I caught a slight hint of movement in the thicket. My mind shifted from my current thoughts Santa Claus coming to see my little girl and the annual Shriners Christmas ball, to the movement in thicket. As I focused my attention on the area where the movement was noticed. Two young does materialized and cautiously work their way out into the edge of the field to graze on some winter oats planted along the edge of the now harvested corn field.
After hunting deer all my life I still get a rush when I watch these beautiful animals in the wild. For me it is not the kill, but the relaxation of being at peace with nature and enjoying the outdoors. This is what makes hunting so wonderful for many of us. This afternoon was turning out to be wonderful, with cool temperatures in the mid 40's overcast and only the slightest of breeze. I was just happy to be back in my home State enjoying the outdoors and the cool crisp air entering my lungs with each breath. During moments in life such as this, all stress, worries and other negative feelings are inconceivable. Asia is a place that I only imagine exists. Right now is reality and life at its finest. This is what life is to me and any other way would be less than acceptable.
As I watched the two does continue to graze towards my stand, I could feel a rush starting to grow from watching these two I knew something was about to happen. These two does seemed a little too on guard as they continuously stop grazing constantly and return their attention to the thicket. It was easy to keep focused just watching the two does, but instinct kept telling me a third deer remained in the thick brush behind them.
Then my heart started to pound even harder as a nice young 6 point stepped out to greet the two does. The primary rut had been over for better than a month, but it seemed that no one had relayed this to the immature bucks libido. As he started to chase after the smaller of the two does around the corner of the field closer to the position were I sat motionless, I admit I was amused with his behaviour during this time of the year. The largest of the two does seemed determined to avoid any unwanted intentions the small 6 point had to offer and slowly returned to the thicket from where she came. The thought of putting him on the ground was passing through my mind, but after letting this size deer walk so many times before, I decided to watch the show.
The 6 point continued to pursue the doe until she had made up her mind to return to the company of her female companion in the thicket. I felt almost let down as I watched the last two of the trio return into the thicket. It seemed that the entertainment was over for the evening. Or so I thought!
I continue to scan the field and watched the light slowly start to fade beyond the tree line but kept my attention to the edges hoping that my entertainment would return. I knew that in less than a half hour this would be the end of another vacation day hunt. I smiled as I watched the two does return to the oats to continue their interrupted meal. As the light slowly dimmed to the point that I was ready to climb down, I caught the sight of two other deer stepping out into the field. I did not want to spook my entertainment so decided to stay until I could no longer see.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind a fifth "Shadow" appeared in the field. I could clearly see horns but could not determine his size at 100 yards. I slowly shifted to bring my binoculars up to check this new intruder out. I am not sure, but I think that my jaw hit the ground when I got a clear glimpse of his wide rack in the quickly fading light.
I decided that the wait was over, he was indeed a keeper. I braced my 7 mm Remington on the limb of the pine, adjusted the scope to 4 power and squeezed the trigger.
The buck took a huge jump kicking his back legs high and landed to remain forever motionless. I was surprise to see that the other deer had only ran 20 or so yards and stopped to determine where the shot came from before trotting into the thicket.
I knew that this was a nice buck, but never realized actually how big he was until I walked up to him. He was indeed a trophy in my book. I weighed him on the scales at our camp skinning shed and confirmed what two of us loading him already knew. 226 pounds on the hoof with a 22 1/4' spread. That is BIG for a Georgia deer. As I admired this wonderful a trophy animal, I was certain that this nice 9 point was the same 6 point I watched from the same spot just 364 days ago. My how he had grown into a true trophy.
I called my family to look at the future member to the trophy room. They were happy with my success, but were not holding back to quickly reminded me of the dinner ball at the Shrine club.
The dinner was as far from my mind as the office in Thailand. I had a mission and worked cautiously to ensure that the capping was done to perfection. I have never been or would consider myself as "Joe Six Pack Hunter". But for some reason at this moment I would much rather be in a nice set of well worn Camo, than the penguin suit they call a tux!
After washing up and sending the deer to the processor, we headed to the shrine ball without saying many words during our drive. My mind was reliving the shot and I can only guess that my wife was wondering if she would be the only one who smell the hint of "Doe in Heat" that seemed to linger.
This indeed is a special time of the season for all of us. As I sit here closing out this story, I look again at the air tickets and wonder what this year will hold in store. I just hope we all have a very safe and happy holidays and may we meet again soon in the woods. Until then happy holidays to each of you.
And remember no matter how long you showeror how much soap and shampoo you use, deer lure stays under the skin for a day or so. My helpful hint is to use alot of cologne. This mixture is sure to make a unique sent that even party guest usually confuse with the latest of the Ralph Lauren collection. Heck, maybe i have come into a new fragrance for the market!! Lets see what next Christmas holds.
IF YA CAN'T RUN WITH THE BIG DAWGS, KEEP YOUR ARSE ON THE PORCH