Winter Solstice Deer Hunt

It’s been tough to get into the woods this season, with the wet weather and my work schedule, but I was able to dedicate yesterday and today to some deer hunting. The experience gave me a first and some discoveries.

Always hunting for meat first, antlers second, I was content to get what I could these two days. Yesterday was a little rough – in the morning I shot and missed a doe, about 45 yards away. It’s muzzleloader season, so there is no quick follow-up shot. Even though my rifle has iron sights, it is normally my most accurate weapon. After waiting until about 10AM, I left with a plan to return.

After some Christmas shopping, I returned to sit for a couple hours and saw nothing… except for the deer scared off as I walked to my stand.

This morning I was up in my stand nice and early, and as expected, a herd came by at 7:40AM. I had a decent line on them, but they were farther away than I like. About four walked by, and there appeared to be just one left for me. He entered my shot zone and I shouted “meh” – and he stopped, as they usually do. That’s when I shot. He dropped right there.

I took out my range finder and discovered it was a 71-yard shot. Even with an excellent shoulder shot to the lungs, my deer typically run a few yards and fall. How is it that this one fell right where it stood? I soon found out.

The sense of relief after shooting a deer, after hours of sitting, not to mention the driving to and from, is always a calming moment. It’s as if all the planets, the sun and moon aligned perfectly just for me. When the deer hits the ground, all is right with the world, at least for one day.

Walking towards the deer, I was not sure what to expect. Today was a first. As it turns out, even though I aimed for the lungs, for whatever reason, the bullet hit the young buck in the ear for a clean head shot. He died instantly. Apparently, my aim was high and to the left – or he quickly moved his head. Whatever happened, I was glad for the quick kill, which is always my priority… and why my preference is to hunt with a shotgun or rifle.

Today’s harvest was very smooth. I strapped the deer to a tree for the “field dressing” (removing organs) and then dragged him in my plastic sled to the farm road. My shot was down hill into a ravine with a creek, which gave me a nice flat path to a convenient spot for a return with my Jeep. Dragging about 100 lbs. up and down hills and over fallen trees is not a good time. Unfortunately for today’s harvesting effort, this deer was on the smaller side, although “every cloud has a silver lining” and the lighter weight made this morning’s drag less tiring.  Today is the first time I removed a deer from the woods along this creek, and hope to take this same route next time.

My hunts usually end with big does hitting the ground. It’s rare that I have an opportunity to harvest a large buck and today was no different. There is still time, although it looks like there will be only one more morning for me in muzzleloader season, with the rest of the opportunities reserved for my crossbow in January. The good news: today I have discovered new deer paths and a superior spot to place my second stand, plus an easier exit out of the woods. There is always a silver lining.

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