'Mommy's Big Buck'
Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2018, my husband Mike and I paid close attention to our food plots. The intention was to plump and protect our resilient Whitetail Deer population through the harsh Northern Minnesota winter. We are situated on our beautiful 80 acres of land which is a mix of wood and wetland. Unexpectedly, the searing summer heat, with an expansive dry spell, severely impacted our food plots. Our hunting we knew would likely be impacted but regardless, we would be harvesting venison to fill up our freezers to last through next rifle season opener in MN.
Our game cameras were showing some nice Bucks and several Does and Fawns leading up to the hunt. However, not nearly as much activity in previous years. With this, we hoped that we would have a good chance at finding an antlered trophy to add to our collection. In the area of which we hunt, we have a total of 9 days to tag what we need. It had turned out that the weather did a significant shift in that that time. We were having temps in the 30's-40's and then came Winter with snow flying.
As I sat in my deer stand, I had in my mind what I was hoping to take to fill my tag and was setting parameters in which I was willing to forego my hopes and ultimately just get some venison harvested.
November 3rd and 4th brought very few deer to my stand. In addition, my husband and I needed to take turns hunting to care for our 6 and 4 year old boys. I had concluded that I would take a day off from work to utilize a full day of hunting without any distractions. The morning of November 7th brought blustery cold winds and a fresh coating of light snow. I did not see any deer in this sit. I was a bit bummed about this but was excited to go out again in the late afternoon to hopefully witness a deer. As I was exiting my stand to go in for a few hours to warm up and get some food, I noticed some fresh tracks on my walk back. It looked to be about three deer meandering around just outside of my line of sight from my stand; likely a trio which included a Doe and her two Fawns which have become permanent residents to our land. It was then that I noticed lone tracks that were significantly larger to the others and my heart began to thump. I made my way steadily and quietly back towards home, rifle at the ready, to be prepared for any potential kill shot.
I arrived back to the warmth of my home and planned to go back to my stand in a few hours. I bundled myself up and now with a full belly and a refreshed determination to hopefully see the animal that made the tracks earlier that morning.
The blustery winds had calmed a bit but it was still quite cold. I hunkered into my stand and pasted my eyes to all areas within my shooting range. After an hour and a half of waiting, I saw movement coming from the NE part of my view and I was up and in the ready position quickly; Doing my absolute best to not disturb the calm of the wilderness by the crunching of snow under my feet and the re-positioning of my body on the bench. The animal looked of good size coming in broadside approximately 85 yards from where I sat. It was a lone White Tail and when I pulled up my scope, I saw Antlers- large ones and my heart began to beat so quickly in anticipation for what next steps I would be taking and how to quickly and carefully make an ethical kill. Following him in my scope, he confidently made his way towards me on the established trail skirting the East side of my food plot. He took a sniff of the Estrus I had hanging in a tree and it was then that I began my self talk; "Ashley, deep breaths" "You got this" "Slow and Steady" "Reload right after you take the first shot" "Watch every step he makes after shooting". These chants to myself and strict instruction continued until he was 70 yards from my stand and he was slightly broadside. I considered a neck shot but felt more comfortable waiting a few more seconds until I could take a shot behind his right shoulder. I placed my frozen thumb onto my safety switch and moved it to fire. The ring of the lead exiting my tried and true 13 year old .260 Savage Remington Rifle echoed loudly around me but I don't think that I heard much of anything other than my rapidly pacing heart. Upon impact, the antlered giant did a sprawling leap in the air and immediately jolted into the swamp to the East. I quickly and effectively reloaded my weapon and squared my scope to him for a second shot. I had to stand slumped over and aim for a jumping whitetail. I took the second shot but was not confident that it had made an effect. From the direction he was running towards, it sounded as thought a bulldozer was tearing down the established popples. The silence was then so loud that it was deafening. I stood scanning my eyes in his last known position and there was no movement. I stood there for what seemed to be an eternity at the ready. After approximately five minutes, I allowed my self some relief and took a seat back on my bench. I began to hear the sounds of struggled breathing from a distance. My curiosity brought me back to my feet but still nothing could be witnessed. I sent a frozen-fingered text message to my husband who had been at work, expressing a condensed version of my narrative.
I made my way down my stand, rifle at the ready and eyes peeled for any movement or a body mass of that beautiful Whitetail. I ensured through my travels that there weren't any tracks leaving the swamp. After meandering through the stillness of beautiful white kissed trees, I saw him.
I made my way very slowly, making slight sounds and watched with such focus, for any body movement. There was none and I was thankful for that. He was positioned in a way that he seemed to be taking a snooze like a Golden Retriever might; Belly to the ground with their head positioned between their two paws.
Now that a kill had been assessed, I could take in the glory and wonder of his beautiful, mature rack. I knelt next to the animal which will provide my family with food through the winter, and thanked him for his sacrifice which was unbeknownst to him. He was issued his last meal by me, his hunter; A family tradition carried on from my father of putting grass into the mouth of the animal and to show respect and appreciation.
This was the second largest Whitetale Deer that I have graciously harvested in my 18 years of hunting. I am proud beyond measure and so thankful as a Woman that I had achieved this hunt on my own. The look in my children's eyes when they got to go with to pick up "Mommy's Big Buck" will always be priceless to me. Their love and support was incredible. They expressed through their words and actions their proudness of me. My husband met me with love in his eyes and the look of "Yeah, that's my wife!" upon broaching the Antlered Buck. The love and support fills my bucket and keeps me looking forward to my next wilderness adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ReelCamo Girl Brand Champion
ReelCamo Girl is a lifestyle brand focused on ladies who love the outdoors.There is a growing need for a place for women to share their outdoor experiences, as well as an interest in clean eating and self-sufficiency. Through our website and social media networks, we offer a safe place where the ladies can share their pictures, stories, wild game and fish recipes, and news articles about conservation and hunting perspectives.
ReelCamo girls are strong, capable, kind, compassionate, nature & country-loving individuals. We encourage responsible and ethical hunting. We care about the land and wildlife management and about long term sustainability. We hunt, fish, dive, shoot and hike…for peace of mind, happiness, pure clean protein & connection to the outdoors. ReelCamoGirls can shoot a gun, draw a bow, track an animal, get CAMOed up, bait a hook, clean a fish and still be feminine.