My First Whitetail

Yesterday showed the deer movement increasing, with the bonus of fresh snow on the way, it was a good day for a hunt. A day worth skipping work.

I got dropped off and my dad continued on to check out ‘3 ponds’ where we’d seen lots of sign a few days ago.

The fresh snow on the ground helped first light come quicker. As I slowly walked, the frozen snow crunching, I couldn’t help but think any deer within 200 yards would hear me. After all, it was the day before I spooked one walking towards me after leaving my blind too early. Lesson learned. 

After a 15 minute walk in, I slowly unzip the blind, duck my head in, and start to set up. Lowering the windows, dreaming of the 5 point monster whitetail we’d seen on the trail cam for a few weeks. 

Each small creek of a tree, or squirrel running through the bush heightens your senses. Your vision clearer, more focused. Ears directed at the area, listening for another clue to what’s coming. A simple gust of wind excites you in a silent forest. For the first time, I feel apart of the wilderness. Sitting. Waiting. Observing. Freezing.

It was only a few weeks ago, my first time ever, in a blind I called in a little spike. I quickly and quietly tried to chamber a bullet (I thought it was a doe and was hoping a buck was following it).

The small clink from 85 yard away was enough to grab his attention. I watched as he stopped. Froze. Investigating by lifting his nose in the air, sniffing for clues as he tips his head side to side. I thought the blind, my doe urine (which had made my wife barf it was so strong), and almost no wind would keep me hidden. Within 5 seconds his tail flipped up and and bolted up the hill and out of sight. This was going to be hard. Lesson learned.

A surprise showed up 30 minutes later a “small” 3 X 3 bull moose trotted by – fully unaware of my presence. It was the last day of spike-fork hunting, but, he was just a little too big to call. 

There were many more cold mornings and evenings in the blind with no action, looking back, that first day was a great one! Now….back to the hunt. 

A few hours pass by and the heater in my boot is not working…it is freezing. I decide I should make a move as there’s no fresh tracks. I head down towards a fence line at the end of the road….I start to shake I’m so cold…thank god I’m moving again I think, I should warm up soon. It’s the first time I’m hoping to find a hill to climb.

I follow the path and come across a sets of tracks, I ignore them, I had zero interesting in fighting through that thick bush. As a continue down the fence line I come to a heavy track area through some openings. I decide to follow them, marking some good blind spots along the way for next year.

As I follow long, I come to the road we drive in on, having marked a ‘good spot’ about 50 yards from the road without knowing. I follow them down across the road into a steep, thick area. Tracks everywhere. I move slow, make some calls, and listen for the forest to give me a clue. Nothing. 

I have a work call at 11am and it’s just after 10. My dad text saying he’s in the truck and putting along so I start to work my way up. 

We meet on the main road, I take the clip out, put my gun away and we share what we saw. I’ve warmed up by now but the heated seat sure feels good. I’ll be home early for my call which gives me a nice sense of calm…

As we approach the main road my dad firmly puts on the breaks. The first sign he’s spotted something. I quickly took over and see the outline of a big dark deer body, but I’m unsure if just the forest tricking me again or not. 

My dad quickly pulls out his binos and quietly, but urgently says “it’s a buck, a big buck.”

My calmness is gone. 

I flip over in my seat to grab my gun and clip just incase. I quietly open the door to slip out. 

I hear “It’s big. A whitetail. And with a doe.” Stay calm Joel. Stay calm.

I figure it’s about 100-120 yards away, all flat, but pretty thick with trees and low bushes. I slowly move to the hood of the truck, hoping to use it as a stabilizer.

As I peer through the scope, I remembered I lowered my scope to 3.5X but luckily this shot was still just close enough. 

All I can see is the outline of a deer behind thick bushes. No head. It’s behind a tree. I can see my dad looking at the deer, back to me and wondering what Im doing, but I have no angle, no clear view.

I move to the back of the truck desperately searching for a clear shot. No luck. I can’t get a clean look. My dad  slowly backs up the truck to change the angle while also providing cover for me. Nothing.

I hear “He’s moving! He’s moving!”

I quietly rush back to the front of the truck knowing he was facing that direction. Dead still on the hood of the truck I pier through the scope. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. There’s a 5ft gap that’s clear. I need him to walk through. It’s my only chance. Patience. 

He moves towards the gap…almost perfect, and then….he stops. He looks at me. All I can see is his head and the tall, wide, dark, symmetrical rack. No body. 

I put my crosshairs on his forehead and the thought goes through my mind….do I head shot him? Of course I don’t. I need 2 and a half  steps in the same direction he’s going, that’s it. Stay calm Joel.

I take a deep breath as I move my cross hairs to where I need him to walk. Reminding myself to be calm, patient, and ready to shoot if it happens. Be confident in that first shot, it’s the only one you’re taking I remind myself. 

What feels like an hour (probably more like 30 seconds) goes by and he looks forward, away from me and starts walking towards the doe. 1 step. Stay calm Joel. 2 steps. BANG!

He drops instantly. The echo of the shot runs through the forest.

The doe stands there confused and then flutters away a few seconds later. After 5-10 seconds the forest is quiet and still again. No running. No thrashing. No movement. I quickly chamber another round just incase. 

We wait a few minutes and start the walk over to confirm. The clean, calm, controlled kill I’d been after since my last deer.

I never thought I’d get a whitetail from a truck (especially after my spike interaction), but it pays to be out there when they are moving around and in the rut.

Now, this was in our secret hunting spot that hunters make fun of for whitetail hunting. Not only was this my first white tail but it was also the first deer I 100% field dressed myself. I tried calling my grandpa so he could be apart of it, but no luck. 

Time to get to work and clean, prepare, and enjoy my first whitetail. 

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