My anticipation ran high as I climbed the white oak tree in the pre-dawn darkness in my Baker tree stand. My stand site was located on the crest of a ridge overlooking a bottom filled with white oaks bearing their succulent acorns. I had located the hardwood ridge filled with 121 buck rubs on a previous scouting trip. How many bucks had been there was still up for debate, but it was obvious by the fresh rubs that bucks were definitely living in the area.
About a mile to the south I heard the telltale sound of a tailgate dropping and the hounds began barking. As the horizon turned pink and then orange, a pack of hounds opened up full force, bawling and howling in a symphonic chorus that signaled the opening day’s hunt. Though we weren’t hunting with that group, I knew that the dogs and hunters would get the deer stirred up, and that was a good thing.
Pow- whap! A rifle shot erupted about a quarter mile to the south as the dogs continued in our direction. And then the shots continued as a deer had obviously escaped the firing line and the dogs continued to run him up and down the surrounding hills.
Tick-Pow, came another shot even closer to my stand.
Yes, as it turned out that shot was made by my younger brother, Joe, on one of his first hunts. I had found two areas chock full of buck sign and put him on one of the spots, while I’d taken the other. Before heading to my stand I’d left Joe with my trusty old 30/30 rifle that Pawpaw Pat had given me. Shortly after Joe shot I heard deer running through the crunchy leaves and heading straight my way. I dared not turn to look as I was in the wide open about level with the hill where they were coming from.
Suddenly two bucks appeared on top of the knoll right at the crest of the hill in front of me. Raising my Remington 30 06 I centered the crosshairs on the bigger buck and squeezed the trigger. As the rifle roared the bucks ran wide open straight toward me. I continued firing at the deer until they disappeared over the crest of the next knoll. The buck never even showed a hint of being hit and my heart sank quickly. Dropping my head in disgust I noticed something red in the dry sandy stream bed right below my stand.
Could it be? Yes, it was definitely a large splash of red, indicating a solid hit and I quickly got down and followed my first blood trail. The trail ended 60 yards from my stand as I topped the knoll and spotted my first trophy buck.
Though it was still early I picked up Joe and his buck and drove to my grandfather’s stand for help. After hanging my buck on the skinning tree Pawpaw Pat went back to his levee stand overlooking a long swamp bottom field.
Our skinning efforts were going good and we were basking in our success when the swamp bottom erupted in gunfire around 10:30. Pow, pow, tick- boom! From our vantage point at the crest of the hill we clearly heard Pawpaw Pat’s 30 06 bellow in the swamp bottom and heard the subsequent hit on a deer.
It took us all of two minutes to make it to his stand. As it turned out, Pawpaw had killed an 8-point before it could make it across the quarter-mile field. Three hunters harvesting three trophy bucks on the same hunt was almost unheard of in those days.
Though this hunt happened many years ago, the smell of the aromatic white oak leaves, and vivid memories of our successful buck hunt are still alive and vibrant in my mind today. Though I’ll never again be able to join Pawpaw Pat on a hunt, I am thankful for the time we had together in the deer woods and the lessons he taught my brother Joe and me in the process. And when Joe ventures out with Paw paw’s last rifle, a Browning 30 06, and me with his first Remington 30 06, we’ll be comforted by the memories and the love and guidance he gave us!
Contact Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org