The Chapter Entitled 'Junior'
(To simply read the hunt alone skip forward to the **)
Anyone who has spent just a little bit of time following Small Acre Hunting knows about a buck named RD (Real Deal) and the years we have spent chasing him. Hundreds of stand hours dedicated solely on attempting to harvest him. Every camera hung, each seed sown and each scouting trip made centered on RD and harvesting him.
Once last season ended with both Pops and I sautéing our buck tags in a skillet we waited attentively until that first pull after the last day of the season to confirm yet again the saga of RD would see another possible season.
It would be the image to the left (below Junior photo) which would send thoughts swirling towards 2015 about what may happen should the stars align for us. However, all throughout the 2014 season there was another deer which both of us said would be tough if not impossible to pass and that was a buck we named Junior, due to the fact that he was a smaller version of his suspected father…RD. This is his story, his chapter in the RD saga if you will.
Many times in 2014 Junior had slipped my father and I, some moments were so close it was astonishing. He was extremely active on the property yet excluding a 200 yard fleeting glance of him I had the day before gun season he lived only on the cameras and never before our eyes, must have inherited that trait from his father. He was the resident buck that loved to move around and was by far the most active deer we had as far as possible shooters went...assuming his demeanor would be more of the same this year we set up cams and expected it wouldn’t be long before our old friend would pop in (and hopefully his father…but this is Junior’s story).
Normally we have numerous cameras out all over the farm, however this year would be different. After two trips to check cards resulted in finding our cameras had been stolen (and a stand once) we quickly couldn’t rely on cams like in past years. All our cameras were now more or less centered on recon for the two-legged variety not four.
That said though we had a camera overlooking a trail which leads back into the biggest bedding area the deer use and Junior could be seen retreating back into the spot in the morning and leaving it out into the fields at night…I knew if hunted smart the stand overlooking the entrance out into the fields near this spot would yield a chance. The question was would all the interference hunting being ran by the neighbors be too much for him to come out during shooting hours or not? Only time would tell...
**I would put in 5 sits from the 10th through the 30th of October in the stand overlooking the entrance into the corn/alfalfa field edge being used. I would pass up an awesome young 2 and a half year old 7 pointer, the first buck of the entire year for me, on the 29th. I also would have a brute of a busted up buck come out according to the cameras just minutes after legal time twice.
Then a November heat wave hit Northern Indiana after Halloween and temps surged up into the 70’s, scrapes went dead and daytime movement lessoned. I decided to stay out of the woods until the temps changed, however Wednesday the 4th while sitting at work I got a feeling I couldn’t shake. Just seemed like I needed to be in the woods despite the temperature, so I called the day early and headed home as the temperature flirted with 75 degrees!
After a shower, transportation clothes on and gear loaded I headed towards the property. Amazingly with the AC on low…IN NOVEMBER!
I quickly realized no outer layers would do for this hunt because of the heat and quickly threw on some camouflaged base layers only and harness, before heading to the stand. Walking along the edge of the woods in the shade for most of the walk I broke out into the sun for the last 70 yards and beads of sweat began to form. This was gonna be a hot one.
I would take many a precaution in this hunt that normally I don’t like to do. I prefer to take as little as possible with me due to undesired movement or noise when getting set up or at end of the hunt. This time though I had grabbed my back pack so I could haul scent away spray with me. I re-sprayed everything, soaking my head, neck and clothes (including boots)…I knew the breeze would cool me and dry the moisture off so I drenched myself. Putting the spray back in the pack I then took a direct line path to my stand instead of making “J” type hook approach I usually use when I have Evercalm on my boots…however in the heat I desired to simply get to the tree and limit my interaction with any of the terrain.
Getting to the stand I hooked up the bow and hung some cedar branches I had cut and brought along to brush in the stand for better cover and to fight my silhouette. Once up the stand I reapplied more scent away spray, got the cedar branches strapped in place and got set for a hunt I suspected would be a lot of heat and little action.
It would be a very silent hunt as far as sightings of any kind until the sun began flirting with the horizon. The second the sun was starting to set, and the temp dropping, deer started coming out from everywhere. A lone doe just 50 yards in front of me popped out into the picked corn field. Then a group of 3 about 400 yards away came from what appeared to be our food plot in the big woods to hit the picked corn field in the cooler temps.
About 5 minutes later 2 more would shoot out from the big woods (near plot) like the others and one appeared to be a young buck as he pushed and messed around with every doe in the field a ways off in front of me.
It was at this moment something began making noise off to my left-front, the direction of the bedding area. I suspected I only had about 15 minutes of legal light left and knowing how Junior has been known to flirt with last light I slipped my hand onto my bow and got ready to draw should it be him.
As I slowly lifted the bow off its hook and connected my release I caught sight of antlers coming down the trail in front of me but couldn’t tell what size. As the deer, now two bucks seen, neared the field entrance I prepared for the potential shot as they stepped behind a small cedar tree. I quickly realized as they stepped out both were yearlings and slowly unhook my release and watch.
I hang my bow back up and begin to try and reach into my backpack for my phone as I figured I’d get some footage of them at 22 yards in front of me. As my finger-tips touch my phone in my bag I hear a heavy twig snap. I slowly turn my head back towards the front and the two young bucks are looking back from where they came from. Then I heard it, a small snort-wheeze and then a deep guttural grunt.
I instantly knew this buck was not of the young variety, the question was is it Junior? Is it the busted up buck we keep getting pics of? Or a different one? RD?
I hear the buck begin walking the same route as the other bucks and the two yearlings trot off down the field towards the does not wanting any part of what was coming.
I again slip my hand up on to my bow while at the same time slowly retreating my right hand from my bag and in one gesture connect my release and slowly lift the bow off the hook…he stops…I stop.
I can see him testing the wind, and as his head bobs I freeze knowing that as he lip curls and his eyes are pointed up any motion could be picked off.
Still cannot make out which buck he is.
Finally he lowers his head and I get the first clear glimpse of antler…just a glance but it appeared to have great mass. That glance quickly made me think of 4 bucks running around. Junior, RD , a 10 pointer named Hang 10 and the busted up buck with just ½ of one beam.
As he walked I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell until he got out in the field exactly what or who he was, even then it may be tough to distinguish which one with the failing light and dark backdrop until he truly broke out into the field.
As he stepped behind the cedar tree directly in front of me I slowly drew back and came to full draw as he appeared out in the field edge, softly grunting as he broke into view.
As he walked I could tell he wasn’t the broken beam buck as I saw two beams…but I couldn’t tell if he was a shooter or the 7-pointer I’d passed on an earlier hunt, as I thought I noticed one side was missing a G3.
It is at this moment I let out a quiet, “Behhh.” He stops and turns his head towards me. It is in this moment I finally get a clear view of his rack and I know instantly he is getting an arrow.
(The above image taken of arrow the following day)
Settling the 25 yard pin in the 10 ring (he stood at 23 yards) I slowly released the arrow. As the arrow left the bow everything seemed to slow down. As the lighted nock flew towards its target and disappeared into the deer I couldn’t help but initially think I’d made an awesome hit….however as the deer peeled off and headed away I noticed no arrow stuck in the ground as the deer took off.
On about leap number two I see the lighted nock flop out of the deer’s left side, meaning I’d gotten a complete pass through which leads me to begin whispering the words many of us have said, “Go down…go down…go down…”
As if he could hear me he stops…wobbles…and falls. It was over....the countless hours scouting, putting in food plots, hanging stands, cutting lanes, studying trail cam pictures...all of it had been worth it.
Hanging my bow up shaking perfusely I bow my head against the trees and begin to thank God for such an amazing chance and opportunity. So much frustration and anger if I’m honest had been felt this year from the stolen cameras and stand, not to mention the neighbor issues…however 70 yards away an incredible blessing lay dead.
The question though was which buck was it?
After calling the wife and my father to inform them both I decided I would sit up the tree until my father arrived as I had deer all around the field in front of me and his truck would clear the fields without giving away my spot.
As I sat there doubts creeped in as to which buck it was I now couldn't even make out the shape of in the darkness of the night…was my gut right?
As my father and I began following the line the deer had ran off, we found the arrow just covered in blood...but not needing a blood trail we kept walking towards the spot. I will forever remember the moment our light caught sight of the browtines…
…in that moment I felt a lot of things as many bowhunters do. Sorrow for the fact such an awesome creature was no more. Sad that the story was over. Grateful to have gotten to share the story with my father. Joy, sheer joy in the accomplishment and the blessing God had given me!
I may never see RD again, or lay my hands on his antlers…but this was Junior and in many ways Junior had grown into the same category as his suspected father. He was a resident stud and like his father extremely elusive, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to end his story as my father and I sat there admiring him.
Junior up until this year was just an awesome tall browed pure 8 pointer. This year however, at some point in his velvet stage damaged his left beam. All that affected though would be the score, it did nothing to the story that had been told. Many things factor into a deer being a trophy...to me Junior was definitely that.
God bless all of you reading this...and may God bless your time in His creation.
-Small Acre Hunting
Couple pictures of him below: