Saving the Season, Life Lessons: The Story of Boss - Mississippi Hunting and Fishing Forums
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Old 01-17-2018, 02:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Saving the Season, Life Lessons: The Story of Boss

As some of you know, Im building a website about hunting. One section will be for stories by me and submitted by others with an emphasis on how hunting teaches about life. I would really appreciate being able to post some stories here for feedback. I plan to have the site up by mid-2018. Ive started 5 stories, finished two. This is the first draft of my most recent one. Its very long for a forum post, but then I can't answer a multiple-choice question in less than 3 paragraphs!

I've tried to not run on relentlessly, but more than an account of killing a deer, its a story. I think any experienced deer hunter can relate to the roller-coaster of emotions, and there may even be a lesson or two in it. Mostly, though, I just hope it entertains. I come from a long line of outdoorsmen who love to tell stories as much as we love to hunt and fish. Many nights at deer camp when I was younger wed stay up so late telling stories around the campfire most of us wouldnt even hunt the next morning! That should indicate our priorities.

Deer season 2017-18 was easily the worst of my life. As Ive preached relentlessly, my part of the world has a lot of deer. Any good hunter who spends adequate time in the woods should get opportunities. I passed up many doe during archery season because they all had fawns, and unless my family is hungry I wont take momma in October. When rifle season started it was clear the deer gods were plotting against me. Im embarrassed to admit some of these, but my mis-steps include: Trying to shoot an 8pt with my Marlin 45-70 cross-bolt safety on, firing my Ruger MkII 30-06 into the ground taking the safety off with my finger touching the trigger, and taking a really bad off-hand shot with my feet facing one direction and my body turned hard another. Before concluding these are the actions of a moron who should have his hunting license revoked, please consider in my 40+ years of hunting Ive never experienced anything even remotely similar. My hunting successes will set records for neither quantity nor quality, but before this year theres been little reason to suspect Im a danger to myself or others.

Early December a really good buck showed up on my trail cam on some public land I've hunted for about ten years. He is so different from the typical "bottom buck" I was certain he was just passing through during rut. He's easily a 200 pounder, and his rack has much more mass than others. But over the next couple of weeks I got more pics of him, so I decided he intended to stay. One series of pics showed him peeing in another bucks scrape, with the other, older buck looking on. He then turned toward the senior deer as if saying, And what do you intend to do about that? His own scrapes which by Dec 20th could be found everywhere - were large, deep, and absolutely shredded. No doubt he arrived and announced himself as BMOC. I named him Boss and proceeded to obsess. I decided to hunt this ONE deer, to the exclusion of all others - something I've only done one other time in my life, to disastrous results.

I hunted several times where I knew Boss was spending a lot of time. Able to access only the edges of the thickest, gnarliest crp/buckbrush/ironbrush in this part of the country, I saw neither hide nor hair. Almost all pics were at night, so clearly this guy wasn't moving much during shooting light. I wasnt optimistic about my prospects.

Then, on Christmas Eve morning, 7:20am, as I was easing through some hardwoods, I spooked a group of 5-6 bucks converging on a hot doe, and Boss was one of them. Deer exploded every direction, and the next hour comprised one of the most exciting of all hunting experiences love-drunk, tongue-wagging bucks chasing a doe like Rosie ODonnell chases a cheeseburger. But that story is for another time. All the fun ended with me helplessly watching Boss slowly walk away into the morning mist. During all the madness hed run into an opening 125 yards away, looking the opposite direction. I knelt, raised my rifle and got him in my scope just as he started walking directly away. I was unable to turn him and I was unwilling to take the dreaded "Texas heart shot." I was carrying my "deep woods" bolt gun setup: Ruger M77 Mk2 30-06, 19" sawed-off barrel, handloaded 200-grain Speer SP, light charge of H4350 (~2250fps). Perhaps it was enough for the shot none of us wants if my aim were true, but I'd done so much bad thinking this season my confidence was very low, and I've never shot a deer in the rear end. So I held the trigger, watched him disappear and then darn-near cried. What else could go wrong this season?

The next 4 days were BAD. I was surly, snappy, impatient, and just generally acting like a spoiled child. I felt sorry for myself, recounting all the bad breaks, bad decisions, and worst of all - bad shooting of the 2017/18 season. Every hunter I know had killed wall-hangers, [one Bull forum member was stacking them up like cord wood on public ground along the Alabama border ], and I was skunked. I sulled up and even brought a negative energy to Christmas. I over-reacted to a couple things my son did, and I barked at my sister over something really minor. My wife and kids were preparing a tent in the back yard for me rightfully so. Then came Friday, Dec 29.

On this day I was carrying my longer-range setup, intending to hunt over some open ground between the thick stuff and the high water: Winchester M70 sporter 30-06, 22 barrel, handoaded 150gr Barnes TTSX, hot charge of Varget. I got into the woods about 3:15. Kids had been sick, and it felt like I was getting it. Weak and off balance, I had absolutely NO desire to hunt. In fact, about 100 yards in I turned around to go home. But then it occurred to me this was probably my last chance to get this buck. The weekend around the New Year is always a big hunting weekend on this govt land, and with the water high it would be ON (I had no idea just how ON it would be!), with deer hunters, duck hunters, squirrel hunters, rabbit hunters, and ATVs. Dogs would be running all over the place, and a buck like Boss would either be killed or run off. I reversed course again and kept walking toward the river bottoms.

Desperation creeping in - such an unforgiving season, likely my last good opportunity - I abandoned my plan to hunt the open areas, and I resolved to undertake the most aggressive of all hunting strategies: Enter the bucks lair. Fortunately, I had the wind for it. So I invaded his nearly impenetrable fortress of crp, buckbrush, saplings, weeds, neck-high sage grass, briers, and thorns, and over the next hour I covered the roughly 150 yards between open ground and a small clearing I knew existed from the days when it was mostly open field. While slowly stalking through this tangled jungle wasnt completely without opportunity, I badly wanted to spend the last half hour of daylight sitting still. At approximately 4:45 I found the little circle of trees - perhaps 25 yards deep by 20 yards wide that served as an intersection of 3 well-worn trails. As I took my seat directly on the wet ground, I just couldnt rally my enthusiasm. How high could the probability be that this buck and I meet in this tiny clearing situated among all this expansive cover in the next half hour? So, with expectations lower than the temperature, I decided I would take any decent buck that provided an opportunity. I needed to get this monkey off my back!

By 5:15pm Id dealt with a soaking-wet butt as long as I could, so I proceeded to raise up to my knees. At that exact moment I heard something, hard off to my left - on a different trail! I shifted by body, trying desperately to remain silent. As I rotated I lifted my rifle into position and watched with my left eye down the side of the scope as a buck sort of popped into the clearing from the trail - which in fact is more of a "corridor, with trees and sage grass forming walls on both sides. Therefore an approaching deer has almost no visibility. As it happened, I was in perfect position when this buck stopped, looked up and stared straight at me...ELEVEN yards from my muzzle! My crosshairs were already on his right shoulder, safety off, so the instant I assessed adequate antlers I fired. He exploded forward and disappeared into the entanglement. Certain of my shot (hey, I'm pretty accurate from 11 yards), but not what I'd shot, I chambered another round and thought, "That looked like a pretty good buck." As God is my witness it never once crossed my mind that it was my buck, Boss. I just knew for public land and my rather modest standards he would pass muster.

I stayed dead still, wet and cold but not caring now, allowing the emotions to wash over me. As all still-hunters know, there's often no buck fever hunting from the open ground. Sometimes it all just happens too quickly. The nerves and excitement occur afterwards. "Finally. A buck on the ground, I thought. I was sure I'd heard him crash where the thick stuff started, so I shouldered my Winchester and dug through the cover. To my astonishment he wasn't there. So I made a little circle. Nothing. A bigger circle. Nothing. I walked back to the spot where I'd shot him. Again, nothing - no blood, no hair, no spray, no splatter. Nothing on the countless little saplings and grass surrounding his final stationary position. Wth? Nobody misses from 11 yards!! Did I hit a limb? Had I dropped this rifle and knocked the scope badly? When's the last time I checked zero? Had my son used it? My mind raced. Most critically, where on earth is the blood??? I fought off panic and went back to basics: Dark now, I followed his tracks the 15-20 yards through the clearing and into the parted sage grass where he'd disappeared. There on the ground was ONE SPOT of red, watery blood. I moved farther in. Another drop. Then two. I could only think, "This dude should be hemorrhaging by now. Searching for anything reassuring, I noticed blood on the sage grass, about 3ft high. My anxiety was still significant, but no longer lethal [*this apparent over-reaction will have meaningful context after reading the account of my hunt on December 1 an experience that will haunt me for some time and was dominating my thoughts while searching for this buck]. More blood on the sage grass, now both sides of his path. I thought, goodat least hes got holes on both sides, and I relaxed a little. Clearly, I'd pencil-holed him. That will happen with a Barnes bullet. They're much harder than a SP.

Hes hardly bleeding, but there's enough. So I kept tracking, foot by foot. At about 30 yards hed hit a wall of saplings and turned 90 degrees. Then 90 degrees the other way onto a trail beaten flat and worn to mud from use. As I tracked, I couldnt help being amazed at this hidden Whitetail World a veritable maze of intertwined, finely-cut corridors the deer could use to cover a full sq mile of hunting ground without exposing a hair. Still no blood on the ground to speak of, but the crimson lines on the cream-colored grass pointed my way. I came to a turn in the trail, and there in the middle of it - 10 yards ahead, at the end of my flashlight's ray - I detected the outline of a deers hindquarters, then the white of his tail. He was down and completely still. [*This is a feeling only a hunter knows; it fits somewhere between the excitement of Christmas morning and finding out you're not in trouble a unique combination of excitement and relief, with getting something and getting out of something]. I let out a deep breath and marveled at the size of his body as my flashlight took it all in. "Good grief he's big," I thought as I took the final 2-3 steps to him. Then, as the light shone upward I recognized the rack as if it were the only set of antlers Id ever seen. Oh. My. God. This wasnt any random bottom buck. It was the very deer Id been after: ole Boss!

I stood frozen - wide-eyed like a child witnessing a magic trick. After all that had occurred since Sept 30th when I started my season in these very bottoms with a stick and string, in the final moments of shooting light on this likely final opportunity, in a tiny clearing not much larger than my den, Id met up with the buck Id been hunting relentlessly for a month. The decent buck whod popped into the clearing was THE buck. And he was now mine.

I knelt down beside him, put my hand on his ribcage, and I paid my respects to this old warrior, with his scrapes and scratches and broken left G3. Then I offered thanks for the privilege of hunting these amazing creatures. As I did I was overcome by emotion. All the frustration and blown opportunities, the great deer that got away on Dec 1, screwing up my chance on this same buck Christmas Eve. The emotions just flowed up and out.

Then, without warning, like a buck running in from downwind, those emotions were replaced by a profound sense of embarrassment and shame, swelling up inside me as I recalled how Id treated my family over the past week those I love the most and who put up with my obsessions, who eat dinner without me when I stay late to check cameras or satisfy some trivial curiosity. To these most special people Id been a jerk. And why? Because I lost sight of what really matters. While hunting and fishing and shooting and all things outdoors enrich our lives beyond limit, what would it all be worth without family?

And I lost the most important of all things: Faith. In my self-pity I started thinking I was jinxed, that a dark cloud hung over me. But in that moment kneeling there beside the object of my obsession the error of my thoughts hit me like a 300 win mag. Only a selfish, arrogant man assumes the universe considers him important enough to jinx him or create a cloud dark or otherwise - just for him. In my self-centeredness I temporarily forgot Who really is in charge, Who is steering the boat. Im just a passenger, and every day Im allowed to ride is a gift. To hope for more is ok. But to expect it is not. To think something is wrong when you dont get it is not. And, most of all, to take it out on others is not.

I like to think I experienced a genuine epiphany under the stars that night. The test will come next time something I want badly remains out of reach. Will I be able to keep it in perspective? To do so will be the object of my obsession next season.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DecBuckFront2.jpg (46.6 KB, 247 views)
File Type: jpg DecBuckSide2.jpg (39.9 KB, 196 views)
File Type: jpg bossFirstfront1.jpg (151.5 KB, 174 views)
File Type: jpg DecBuckBuggy1.jpg (44.9 KB, 186 views)
File Type: jpg bossBackRack1.jpg (163.5 KB, 154 views)
File Type: jpg DecBuckHanging1.jpg (210.4 KB, 156 views)
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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that joker is all mass! awesome story congrats!
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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This was worth the wait Jake, the story and the great deer! I think weve all been where you were. Just this past thanksgiving I was snippy cause I wasnt seeing deer in a few hunts. To some hunting is just killing but to most its way more than that, kinda spiritual in a way. Glad you were able to get your target buck bud! Congrats!
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Old 01-17-2018, 04:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Nice buck and great story!
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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One of the best reads on the forum this deer season. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us and congrats on a great public land buck! Awesome that you were able to take your target buck on the ground at such a close distance. Oh yeah, props on the Rosie quip. Got a laugh out of me!
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Old 01-17-2018, 08:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I've been reading this forum for years and forgot my password so I couldn't see the pics! I went through the trouble of resetting my password just to get them to load. That is a really good warrior buck
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Great buck and a great story. Congrats.
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Old 01-17-2018, 09:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Awesome story and a great buck. Congrats Jake
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Old 01-17-2018, 10:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Enjoyed the story. Congrats on a great buck!
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Old 01-17-2018, 10:12 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Awesome story and buck! Congrats!! But leave the loaded down gun at the house and you coulda got it over with Christmas Eve. Lol Woulda been better on the fam. Just messing with you. I really enjoyed you story! Write us some more!
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