Meridian Star

Outdoors

December 27, 2013

Trophy Time

MERIDIAN — Now is big buck time. My memory, aided by a small notebook into which I recorded the deer that fell to my gun way back when, reveals that my biggest bucks were bagged in late

    December and early January. Three of the four Mississippi trophy whitetail racks on my wall were bagged within two days of New Year’s Day, in that wonderful time of winter when the Christmas spirit abides in us and a new year is being born amid optimism and hope.

    These bucks were all taken ahead of hounds back before I understood that the rut is what brought these cunning sultans out of hiding to lay their vulnerable scent trails all across the land. The rut; that time established in the beginning by the Creator for deer to extend their existence. It is the one time when the hunter has a significant chance to see the biggest and strongest of the herd.

    I sat late one evening in a shoot house near where I had found tracks of a giant buck on a sandy road. The tracks led to a large impenetrable thicket. My stand was on the back side of the thicket. It was moments before shooting light would be gone when he stepped into a cleared lane just 45 yards from my perch.

    The monarch turned purposefully toward an exit point across the opening as I quickly raised my rifle. He never stopped walking. Just as my crosshairs found the buck he stepped into the woods ; melting into the blackness of the night. Gone. I was left only with the image of those sweeping antlers, framing his departing body like huge parenthesis marks. My safety was off as the gun came to my shoulder. But I needed one more precious second to aim and press the trigger. It didn’t happen. No one ever saw that buck again.

    This buck is just one that has established in my mind what I call the “Glimpse Theory.” My deceased brother, Ron, suggested that the really big ones often only give us brief peeks at themselves.

    When a glimpse does come along it is often just that; an antler tip showing two feet above an eye almost hidden in thick brush; a body three times the size of a leading doe 500 yards down the pipe line; a glint of reflected moonlight from an arm-length antler just as shooting hours end. These are part of the substance of trophy whitetail deer hunting. The “Glimpse Theory” steadily growing from the hypothetical to the cold, hard truth.

    But the one time you have a chance of getting that glimpse, and maybe even an extra couple seconds if you are lucky, is during the rut. And there are few times better to catch the big ones roaming the woods than when December melts into January where I have hunted in Mississippi. Maybe it is the combination of very cold weather, the rut, a need to find scarce food or other reasons.       

    I have waited on stand for deer a major slice of my life’s allotted time. Many hours were long and cold and most were fruitless. For almost all of them, what I had going for me was anticipation based on those three or four times when a giant buck really did shoiw and I really did collect him.

    Too, there is a bit more than anticipation of a trophy buck that makes the days and years of January's waiting and watching not so bad, in fact downright worthwhile. The shuffling of leaves made by a squirrel that “could be a deer;” the squeals of wood ducks flying over the swamp at daybreak; crows screaming nearby at some unseen creature; a woodcock flittering past, making you wonder how it made the flight from New England with its butterfly-like wing beats; a possum waddling past, reminding you that its ancestors were here long before man appeared.

    Even though big buck hunting in the cold of winter is rewarding enough because of your lofty goal and the strategy and the planning, there are these added blessings that engage the hunter who waits patiently in just the right spot where the Sultan of the Swamp should at last appear.

    Yes, give me January or very late December if I can have only one time to find a super trophy buck.

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