That next morning dawned cold as promised--and very windy. Eric Skinner and Will Primos delivered the hunters in our group to our stands, mine setting me perched among a wooded oak flat. After living north of the Mason-Dixon line for more than two years now, I had somehow totally underestimated the thumping chill Mississippi can deliver. With the wind gusting more than 20 mph at times, the cold cut right through my thin layers. I had mistakenly left my UnderArmour cold weather gear at home.
At times the tree swayed making me reactively grab at the lock-on, though the 22-foot-high perch wasn't in danger of going anywhere unless the entire tree fell. Finally, after about an hour, three does filtered past. Each hunter was allowed one trophy buck of his choice and as many does as we wished to let arrows fly. I would be more than happy to help Will meet his quota for removing does from the land, but I was going to make darn sure that there wasn't a big boy nearby. Now wasn't the time.
Not 20 minutes later, another deer moved in from the same direction the does had materialized, this one though looked like it sported a white rocking chair on its head. Nose down and head swaying, the buck moved steadily along the far side of the oak flat just out of range. I barely had time to react. Fumbling with the Primos Buck Roar that I had foolishly left in a cargo pocket on my hunt pants, I gave the call a few quick grunts to catch the deer's attention. It worked and he screeched to a halt, swinging his head my direction. His eyes were aimed right my direction as the wind swayed my tree.
I have no idea what finally unnerved the big fella, but after a minute of rapt staring in my direction, he turned and loped off. I grabbed my Primos Can and offered a few bleats among the din of the forest, but didn't believe the deer had even heard me.
Twenty minutes later, I found myself shivering uncontrollably and cramping from hunching over. I needed to stretch. I cautiously looked around in every direction, laid my bow across my lap and stretched my arms out. Instantly, I heard hooves scampering away from a mere 20 yards behind me. A buck--or more likely, the same buck--had snuck in on me and spooked when I moved.
I had just made a bonehead move, but the wind was maybe going to allow me to salvage things. I hit the Buck Roar as the buck skirted my position. He stopped and turned and cautiously began to stomp back my direction. Of course, five does chose that moment to crash the party and as they passed by my stand a mere 10 yards away, the big boy disappeared into the forest with them.
Returning to camp later that morning, I learned that nearly everybody had a big buck experience that morning, particularly Field & Stream's Sid Evans, who saw the biggest buck he has ever seen while hunting. Using a muzzleloader, he had steadied his aim at the animal just 100 yards away and gently squeezed the trigger only to hear the snap of the 209 primer and nothing else. A misfire!
He scrambled to insert another cap, but again, the gun refused to fire.
The wind died down as the day wore on, but surprisingly, I didn't see a single deer that evening. I was one of the few though, as most of the others saw some pretty nice deer including a huge 11-point that hung out under T.J. Williams stand for about an hour. T.J., marketing coordinator for Primos, was only doe hunting. Of course.
Greg Gatto, in sales for Time 4 Media, would sink his first arrow into a quality 10-point that was about to blow out of his setup. Will and Greg gave the blood trail a quick look after dark and decided to wait until morning to go back in to ensure that they didn't push the wounded buck. It would be a long, sleepless night for Greg.
Check out the Strut Zone for the rest of this hunt tomorrow.