Thankfulness and a 4-by-4 buck deer

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Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is as enjoyable as mine, enjoying a scrumptious turkey dinner with all the trimmings and some quality family time.

I, like most Americans, have much to be thankful for today. I am thankful for the good fortune of being born in America where I have freedoms unlike most of the rest of the world.

I am thankful for a wonderful wife who lets me spend lots of time hunting and fishing. I am thankful she has also put up with my “man crap” for 49 years. I am thankful for two fine sons and two of the sweetest granddaughters in the world. I am thankful for excellent health.

I am thankful America has allowed me to prosper with a lake cabin for fishing and farm for hunting. I am thankful for our Founding Fathers who reserved wildlife and fish for the public. I am thankful for Teddy Roosevelt and other early-day conservation leaders that set aside vast acreages of public land for use by the public for public enjoyment. I am thankful for being able to put my deer tag on a nice 4-by-4 mule deer buck last week. It was the largest buck ever taken on my farm (oops, JoAnn prefers me to say OUR farm.)

Now I know you will want to hear my big buck story. I hunted all last week. At the beginning of that hunt, temperatures went to 15 degrees below zero with 15 mph winds. Wind chills were 20 to 30 below. Snow drifts made driving to my favorite hunting areas very difficult. But I knew there was a nice buck on my farm. So one morning I decided to hunt my deer coulee and take this deer if I had a chance. The cold and windy weather had forced the prairie deer into the protection of coulees.

Before I reached my deer coulee, I spotted two groups of deer, totaling 10 deer, on adjacent public land. All were does or fawns. The light northwesterly wind meant I had to hunt my coulee from south to north to keep the deer from catching my scent. Shortly after starting the hunt up my coulee, I spotted some bedded deer. I quickly backed out of sight and crossed the creek bottom. This would allow me to stalk the deer with a small spur ridge hiding my approach.

When I was about 200 yards from that spur ridge, I spotted a deer standing on that ridge looking right at me. I froze. We played stare-down for 10 minutes. If I spooked that deer, all the deer would flee. Finally that deer, which turned out to be a small buck, started walking towards me. I stayed motionless. Step by step that buck came closer to me, headed down the coulee. I stayed motionless and let that buck walk past me, passing within 100 feet.

When he disappeared down the coulee, I continued sneaking up the coulee to the spur ridge, my planned shooting position. I peeked over the ridge.

Yep, the bedded deer were still there. I backed off and removed my day pack. I checked my rifle. It was ready to fire. I than crawled though the grass and snow for the last 75 feet to look over the ridge. There they were. Several does and fawns — and my dandy trophy buck.

The buck was bedded, but I could see his wide rack. He was about 200 yards away. About then, two does got up and began feeding. Then the buck got up to check out the does. The crosshairs of my rifle scope followed the buck as he moved about. Then he turned broadside, offering a great heart/lung shot. I fired. I heard the whack as bullet met flesh. The buck wheeled, ran about 75 feet, stood a few seconds, then dropped dead.     

Then the work started. After taking some photos and field dressing, I dragged the buck across the creek bed to where I could reach him with my four-wheeler. Two hours later he was hanging in my garage ready for processing into good eating. A fine end of a great morning of hunting.

So continue having a great Thanksgiving.

Remember, we still have four days of deer and elk season left. Enjoy this end-of-season hunting.

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